Get Off The Couch and Cook

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Italian Bread

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As you’ve probably guessed by now, we are not scared of carbs or gluten in my house.  We’re fortunate in that no one under my roof has any issues with eating either.  But it’s near impossible to find premade bread that isn’t made with a paragraph of difficult to pronounce ingredients in my area.  And a loaf of bread isn’t work a 60 minute round trip drive to get to the nearest bakery .

When I first started having my “undefined intolerance” to processed foods, I got a bread machine but I just don’t care for the way it comes out, regardless of the setting or recipe I use.  But then it dawned on me that my particular machine has a dough setting so I can use it to do most of the work for me while still baking the bread in the oven.

After the machine does it’s work, all I have to do is…

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It takes me less than 10 minutes to do all that so making this bread it pretty hands off.  This is the same bread I used for the Cowboy Pizzas and the Apple Pie French Toast I posted last week.  It’s very versatile!

I got the original recipe from “300 Best Bread Machine Recipes” but I adjusted it slightly to include white wheat flour.  Using all bread flour made it way to fluffy and using all white wheat flour made it too dense.  The combination turned out perfect!

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Since this makes 2 loaves, I will sometimes wrap one one in plastic wrap then aluminum foil and freeze it for later.  Even without all those preservatives, though, this bread keeps at room temp for a number of days quite nicely.

 

Italian Bread
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Makes: 2 loaves
 
Ingredients
  • 1⅓ c water
  • 1¼ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2⅓ c bread flour
  • 1⅓ c white wheat flour
  • 1¼ tsp yeast
  • Nonstick spray
  • Cornmeal
Instructions
  1. Put the ingredients into your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer.
  2. Run the Dough cycle.
  3. Remove the dough from the machine and form into a ball. Place on a plate and cover with a large bowl for 10 minutes.
  4. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray and sprinkle with corn meal. Set aside.
  5. Cut the dough in half and place on a clean flat surface,. Press the dough into a long oval. Roll along one long edge. Roll the ends in and pinch the seams to seal.
  6. Place seam-side down on the baking sheet.
  7. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
  8. Gently press the dough flat.
  9. Cover with a clean towel and let rise 30-45 while the oven preheats to 375°.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
  11. Let cool.
Notes

Blueberry Pineapple Strawberry Pie

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For some reason, I am craving fruit this summer more than usual.  I am a firm believer that if you have a craving that lasts more than a day, it’s your body’s way of telling you that it needs the nutrients that particular food provides.  Even if it is junk food.  So when I crave something, I listen.  With fruit, though, I find myself buying more than I can realistically eat before it goes bad because of all the fabulous summer time options my grocery store has right now.  Fortunately, since I have now figured out how to make an awesome pie crust, I have more options than either gorging or tossing them away.

Now, I do realize that some may argue that I am craving fruit BECAUSE I have figured out to make an awesome pie crust but to those I say, “Shush yo’ mouth and have some pie!”  🙂

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This is actually my very first, completely from scratch, baked fruit pie and I am very happy with the results.  I even went so far as to make a lattice top!  Look how perfectly that crust puffed and flaked.  Yep, I am a proud Sashi.

I got the idea for this based off a blueberry-pineapple cobbler recipe over at Spoon Fork Bacon.  It had never occurred to me before that I could bake these 2 fruits together though it makes complete sense to me now that I know.  And since I had some strawberries that were about to mug a little old lady go bad, I thought I could add those into the mix.

I am very glad that I did.

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After making the pie crust and letting it set in the fridge for a couple of hours, I just chopped the pineapple and strawberries and mixed them with the blueberries, some sugar and some flour.  That’s it!  Easy as pie!  (Sorry… I know that was lame but it made me giggle.)

I read that one of the keys to a successful fruit pie is to let it sit in the fridge for a bit after assembly before baking it so that’s what I did.  I basically let it chill while the oven heated then baked it.

The biggest mistake I made was not letting it cool completely before cutting into it.  That’s why there are no pictures of individual slices.  I learned the hard way that warm pie = messy pie that is not picture worthy.  Messy or not, though, the tartness of the blueberries, the tanginess of the pineapple, and the sweetness of the strawberries made a perfect summer time pie.

Blueberry Pineapple Strawberry Pie
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Makes: 8 slices
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • ¼ c all-purpose or white wheat flour
  • 3 ~ ½" slices of fresh pineapple, cut into small pieces (1½ c)
  • 8 oz (1/2 pint) fresh strawberries, stems removed and chopped (1 c)
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries (2 c)
  • 1 -2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature, for buttering the pie pan
  • 1 recipe butter pie crust or dough for 2 crusts
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp raw or turbinado sugar (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and flour. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, add the pineapple, strawberries, and blueberries. Stir in the sugar-flour mixture. Set aside.
  3. Butter a 9" pie plate well; set aside.
  4. On a smooth floured surface, roll half the dough into a 12" circle. Gently press it into the" pie plate with the extra hanging over the edge. Roll out the other half of the dough and cut it into 1" strips with either a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife.
  5. Pour the filling into the bottom pie crust with any accumulated juices or extra sugar mixture.
  6. Lay half the strips across the pie 1" apart from one another. Fold ever other one back half way and lay another strip across the exposed strips that are still going across the pie. Unfold the folded pieces back over the newest strip to have your first woven strip. Fold the bottom pieces back and continue placing the remaining strips 1" apart to create a woven lattice top. (SimplyRecipes.com has a great tutorial for this). Alternately, you can place the whole 2nd crust over the top of the filling. Just be sure to cut 3-4 slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
  7. Use a fork to crimp the edges together. Use a sharp knife to trim away any excess.
  8. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water with a fork. Brush the egg mixture on top of the crust and sprinkle with the optional sugar.
  9. Place the top rack of your oven in the center and the bottom rack on the bottom rung. Refrigerate the pie while you preheat the oven to 375°.
  10. Once the oven is heated, place a baking sheet covered with foil on the bottom rack to catch any drips in case the pie starts to drip. Place the pie on the top rack and bake 50-60 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is thick and bubbling.
  11. Let the pie cool to room temperature on a wire rack then transfer to the fridge to chill thoroughly before slicing.

 

Cowboy Pizza

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I don’t know about you, but I have to avoid places like YouTube and Pinterest unless I am there to look at something very specific and even then, I have to be careful to not start clicking on the next link that looks interesting.  A couple of years ago, I followed a link to YouTube that someone sent me of a laughing baby.  From the cute laughing baby, I ended up watching videos of babies with dogs, which led to kittens and dogs which lead to… well… I don’t remember exactly.  All I know is that it was suddenly 2 hours later and I found a video of a monkey and a frog and.. well… I’m still scarred.

It’s not quite so bad with Pinterest, thankfully, but I usually click on a link which takes me to a blog which takes me to another blog and so on and so forth.  My day is pretty much completely gone by that point BUT I do end up with a bunch of new recipes that I want to try.

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Up until a couple of weeks ago, I’d never heard of a “long boy burger” and then I saw this post over on Sunshine and Bones.  I think I got there via Pinterest but with the way I get lost in Blogland, it’s difficult for me to know for sure.  I do know, however, that the idea of the long boy burger, which seems to be a meatloaf patty baked directly on top of bread and covered with cheese, spawned the idea for what I am calling Cowboy Pizza.

I had these planned for dinner a week and a half ago when my best friends, Ms. W and Mr. T, invited us over to their place to hang out.  So I doubled the recipe, prepped the meat and cheese at home, then assembled and baked them at their apartment.  Yummy noises filled their dining room which, of course, made me super happy.

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Ms. W was even sweet enough to hold the before and after pans for me under their light just so I could take the above 2 pictures.  (You can’t easily tell in the pic above, but she’s wearing one of the “Make Bacon, Not War” shirts I designed.)  I love how supportive my friends are.  Pun not intended but I’ll go with it. 🙂

Now I’m not exactly sure if this would qualify as “cowboy” food but it’s beefy and has lots of BBQ sauce and bacon.  Mr. C, Mr. O, and Mr. T are all big, strong guys so if they approve of these, cowboys should, too.  Right?  At least cowboys don’t get lost in YouTube or are at least strong enough to survive it unscathed.

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I’m including the directions below for a single batch but this doubles quite easily!

Cowboy Pizza
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Makes: 4 large or 6 smaller pieces
 
Ingredients
  • 3 strips of bacon
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 15 oz can tomatoes with green chiles (like Rotel), drained
  • 1 c BBQ sauce (I used my honey BBQ sauce), divided
  • 1 12" loaf of Italian bread, cut in half horizontally
  • 4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon, flipping occasionally, until golden brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon and let drain on paper towels. Pour off the grease from the pan and return it to the stove.
  3. Cook the ground beef until mostly cooked through with very little pink, stirring frequently to break it into little pieces, 5-7 minutes. If necessary, drain off the grease and return the pan to the heat. Add salt and pepper to the cooked beef then pour in the tomatoes with chiles and ½ cup of the BBQ sauce. Stir well.
  4. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened and the beef has cooked all the way through, 3-5 minutes. Crumble and stir in the bacon.
  5. Place the Italian bread halves cut side up on a baking sheet. Spoon 2 Tbsp of the remaining BBQ sauce over each bread half (using ¼ cup total). Top each bread half with half of the BBQ beef mixture then spoon the last remaining ¼ cup of sauce over the meat mixture.
  6. Sprinkle each with half of the shredded cheddar and bake for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Notes
To save time, you could also cook the bacon in a separate pan at the same time you are cooking the meat. That would save you about 10 minutes.

 

Apple Pie French Toast

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On Saturday, I had the opportunity to sample the breakfast menu at a little place in Atlanta called Infusion Bistro with some wonderful ladies from the Atlanta Food Blogger’s Society.  This was my first such event and I was both excited and nervous.  I’m always excited to try new restaurants but this time it was in an “official” capacity.

Infusion Bistro is known best for their “cake & pie infused” waffles which I found intriguing.  They brought us sample plates with a quarter of each kind.  This was the plate that was set in front of me:

infusion-waffles

Starting at the top, we have cookies & cream, red velvet, apple pie and candied yam.  I did not try the first 2 because I knew right off the bat that they had ingredients that would make my stomach hurt (Oreos in the cookies & cream and red food coloring in the red velvet).  I tried the candied yam first but it just tasted like a regular waffle to me.  (The rest of the table agreed.)  The apple pie waffle had a candied apple slice on the top which definitely gave it the apple pie vibe.

They also brought us a lot of other tasty things, like chicken fingers (so good!), fried fish, a variety of omelets, and shrimp & grits.  Now, I’ve been in Atlanta for 10 years and I have never had grits.  I’ve seen them but never ate them based solely on their appearance.  So… I was brave and gave these a try.  The flavor was quite tasty.  Very cheesy.  But the texture was like runny paste which is exactly what I was expecting.  I’m fine with not trying any more grits.  🙂

I didn’t take too many pictures of the other food, though.  The rest of the ladies did a fine job with that.  I had more fun taking pictures of the mayhem of food pics:

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Since I am not a restaurant blogger, I decided to do a play on one of the waffles I tried: the apple pie waffle.  I don’t have a waffle maker, which makes the waffle making a bit of a challenge.  I was originally going to make apple pancakes but then inspiration struck and I had to go with the French toast.

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It also gave me a reason to make apple pie filling from scratch which is good since I know how to make pie crust now.  (Check back next week for my very first pie!)  The pie filling so incredibly simple and even tastier.  It took all of 20 minutes from the time I started to peel the first apple to the time I took it off the heat.  Yeah, canned filling would be easier but this was a hella lot better and I can pronounce all the ingredients.

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The French toast itself is actually an eggless batter.  Mr. Onion-hater also has an aversion to eggs and if anything has even the slightest egg texture, he can’t eat it.  I didn’t miss the eggs in this at all so that wasn’t a problem.

The cinnamon and nutmeg in the batter definitely matched well with the apple pie filling and was definitely a convincing play on apple pie.  I just can’t decide if this is a dessert masquerading as breakfast or vice versa.  I will eat it for either course.

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Actually, this is what we had for dinner tonight.  With bacon.  Mmm… bacon.

I have about 2 cups of filling left in the fridge so I think I am going to have to make apple pocket pies with the leftovers.  If we all can keep from just eating it with a spoon, that is.  It’s kinda tasty just by itself.

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I had such a good time with the AFBS folk.  I am looking forward to the next event I can go to and and can’t wait to see what cooking inspiration I will walk away with.  If this apple pie French toast is any indication, it’ll be really good!

Apple Pie Filling
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Makes: 4 cups
 
Ingredients
  • 5-6 large green apples, peeled, cored and chopped into ¾" pieces (~ 5 cups)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ¾ c sugar
  • ¼ c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1½ c water
Instructions
  1. Place the apple pieces in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Pour it into a large sauce pan then whisk in the water. Heat on high, stirring constantly with a fork, until the mixture doubles in size and thickens, 2-3 minutes. As soon as bubbles start to appear steadily, Pour the apples into the saucepan and stir to coat.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until apples are tender.
  4. Remove from heat. Let cool completely if using for pies, etc.

Apple Pie French Toast
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Makes: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2 c apple pie filling (above)
  • 1 c milk
  • ¼ c flour
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 8 slices of thickly cut bread, about 1"
Instructions
  1. As soon as you remove the apple pie filling from the heat, start the French toast. If using prepared filling, heat it up before starting the French toast.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, flour, cornstarch, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour into a shallow dish.
  4. Melt the butter in the skillet and slide it around to coat the bottom of the skillet.
  5. Press one side of 1 slice of bread into the milk mixture and hold it there for 1-2 seconds, long enough to soak in but not long enough to make it soggy. Place wet side down in the skillet and repeat with 3 more slices of bread.
  6. Top the dry side of the bread in the skillet with 2 tablespoons of pie filling.
  7. Press one side of 1 of the remaining slices into the milk mixture for 1-2 seconds. Place wet side up on top of one of the apple topped breads in the skillet. Repeat with the remaining bread.
  8. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the bottom is crispy and golden brown. Carefully flip and cook the other side for another 3-4 minutes. Remove the French toast "sandwiches" to plates and top with more pie filling.
Notes
You could also coat both sides of the slice of bread and cook the single slices. Then serve with the apple topping!

 

atlfbs-infusion-groupL-R: Denise Romeo, Linda Carmichael, Erica Key, Jessica Pratas, me, Erica Smith   Not pictured: Teresa Dothard

 

Spicy Pork Tostadas (with homemade queso fresco)

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In the “ethnic” aisle at Kroger, I’ve always seen this big, bright yellow bag of tostada shells and have been curious to try making my own version of tostadas.  Or as Mr. C calls them “flat tacos.”  Not that there is anything mysterious or difficult to piling yummy Mexican flavors on top of a flat shell but I didn’t want to just make my usual tacos.  I wanted to make something different, something special.

Then I had this idea for a different way of slow cooking a pork loin using only 4 ingredients in addition to the meat itself.  I had no idea if it would be good or not but it tasted fabulous on my mind’s tongue.  And it finally gave me a good excuse to buy the shells.

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I was right!  The chipotles in adobe that were in the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients brought a subtle smokiness with just a touch of heat, kind of like I imagine the cigar room at a gentlemen-only club where the elders sit around drinking cognac and telling tale tales of African safaris to their younger counterparts.

Okay, maybe not but I still like the imagery. 🙂

Since the pork was so simple, I decided to try my hand at making queso fresco, literally “fresh cheese,” to go with these.  I’ve made ricotta numerous times before and even made fresh mozzarella once before so I was pretty confident that I could pull this off.  I still had cheddar and mozzarella on hand, just in case, though.  Even though I realized too late that I didn’t have any cheese cloth, the softer version was just as delicious and will probably become a somewhat regular for future dishes.

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You can see the creamy cheese poking out from between the pork and “refried” black beans.  Yeah, we opted for black beans instead of pintos just to switch things up a bit and never looked back once.  I did end up topping these with just a small dollop of sour cream because I love sour cream but it really wasn’t needed.  The heat on these is mild enough that the queso fresco and veg on the top is just cool enough.

We only ate about half of the recipe for dinner so I am looking forward to having the leftover beans and pork for lunch.  I’m planning on eating them burrito-style and will actually be using the microwave to heat the filling up!

*gasp* *shock* *awe*  I know!  This will be one of the rare times I don’t just eat the leftovers cold.  I don’t think the aging safari hunters would approve.

Spicy Pork Tostadas
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Makes: 18-20 tostadas
 
Ingredients
  • 3 lb pork loin
  • 1 heaping Tbsp jarred minced garlic
  • 28oz - 30oz diced tomatoes in juice
  • 6-7 chipotles in adobo, chopped (do not drain the sauce off the peppers)
  • 1 c low-sodium chicken broth
  • 18-20 tostada shells
  • 2 - 3 c refried black beans, heated
  • 1 recipe queso fresco (see below) or 2 c crumbled
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Diced tomatoes
Instructions
Cook the pork
  1. Place the pork, fat side up, in the 4-5 qt slow cooker.
  2. Spread the garlic over the top and pour the diced tomatoes over that. Place the chopped chipotles around the edge of the meat and pour the chicken broth over all.
  3. Cover and cook on low 8 hrs or high 4 hrs.
  4. Remove the meat from the slow cooker and place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Leave the cover off the slow cooker and turn it up to high while you shred the pork with 2 fork, discarding any large pieces of fat. Return the meat to the cooker and stir to mix in the juices. Turn the heat down to low (or "keep warm" if you have that setting) until ready to eat.
Assemble the tostadas
  1. Place 1 shell on a flat surface. Spoon and spread just enough beans to coat the shell depending on your taste. Sprinkle a bit of the queso fresco on top of the beans them some of the pork. Be sure to let the juices drain off the meat as much as possible before placing on the tostada. Top with lettuce and tomato.
  2. Serve immediately. It's best to make and assemble just what you want to eat at that moment. If you premake these and let them set, they will get soggy.
Notes
Be very careful when handling the chipotles in adobo. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly after handling and avoid touching your eyes and face.

Queso Fresco
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Makes: ~ 2 cups crumbled fresh cheese
 
Ingredients
  • ½ gallon whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • ¼ c distilled white vinegar
Instructions
  1. Pour the milk into a large sauce pan with candy thermometer attached. Gently stir in the salt and stir for 1-2 minutes until the salt has mostly dissolved.
  2. Heat over med-high heat, stirring occasionally until the milk reaches 190°. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the vinegar. Let it rest off heat for 5-7 minutes. Line a fine mesh strainer with cheese cloth and set aside.
  3. Gently stir the milk mixture again to loosen the curds.
  4. Carefully pour the curdled milk into the strainer over the sink, avoiding the hot steam. When the stream slows to a trickle, set the strainer over a large bowl and let it sit for 20 minutes to drain.
  5. Gently gather up the cheese cloth and form the curds into a ball, using the cheese cloth to squeeze out any additional liquid. Unwrap the ball from the cheese cloth and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Notes
If you don't have cheese cloth (like I discovered at the last minute), you can use a fine mesh strainer to strain the curds. Wrap the drained curds in paper towels to remove any excess liquid before wrapping in plastic wrap.

Adapted from BHG.com

 

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