EASY CUBED CHICKEN TERIYAKI

Sometimes I get a wild hair to cook an Asian dish. And one day last week was no exception. I think I love Asian food because I adore soy sauce. There is just something about the saltiness that sets my taste buds singing. So on the morning of my “wild hair” day, I decided it was time for a chicken dish. And just happening to have a couple packages of organic chicken breasts in my freezer, I thought longingly of teriyaki chicken. So I went about searching for teriyaki recipes.

I found plenty of recipes, but none were just what I wanted. Many started with bottled teriyaki sauce, but that wasn’t what I was after. I wanted an easy recipe using simple everyday ingredients that could be thrown together in a reasonably short time. I also wanted some veggies in with the chicken. So I came up with this recipe.

The sauce is not overpowering, the cashews add a nice creamy crunch, and the pinch of red pepper flakes gives the dish a subtle spiciness. All together a tasty and easy dish that should appeal to even the pickiest of eaters.  

  • 1/3 c. low-sodium Tamari or soy sauce
  • ¼ c. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil, divided
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. finely minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 carrot, cut into half or quarter rounds
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • ¼ c. sesame seeds
  • 4 sliced green onions
  • ½ c. cashews

In a medium bowl, combine soy sauce, vinegar, 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, and cornstarch. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.

Heat olive oil and remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken to skillet and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook until just done, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from pan; set aside. Add carrot and onion to the pan. Cook until carrots are crisp tender. Add the cooked chicken back to the pan.

Pour the sauce over chicken and vegetables; simmer until sauce has thickened slightly. Stir in the sesame seeds, green onions, and cashews.  Wonderful served over brown rice.

Note: fried tofu, sliced fresh mushrooms, or small pieces of cooked broccoli would be wonderful in this dish. I just didn’t happen to have any of these ingredients in the fridge that day, and I was too lazy to go to the store. (The older I get, the less willing I am to go to the store for one or two ingredients. I’m slowly becoming more of a “make due” kind of gal and I’m just fine with that, thank-you!)

 

BAKED ZUCCHINI WEDGES

Just so you know, zucchini is probably my favorite vegetable. I say probably because of last evening. I wanted a green veggie to accompany Adobo Seasoned Grilled Flat Iron Steak (recipe on site) topped with Chimichurri Sauce (also on site) and steamed brown rice. I had my choice of sautéed snap peas Roasted Sugar Snap Peas (recipe on site), or fresh green beans (a perennial favorite at Chez Carr), or zucchini squash. We hadn’t enjoyed zucchini for a while, so I decided to try my hand, for at least the 88th time, to bake zucchini wedges. (You can deep fat fry them and they are wonderful, but we are trying to be good!)

Everyone knows that Parmesan cheese is great with zucchini, so that had to be one of the coating ingredients. And I wanted a little “kick”, so I added a pinch of cayenne pepper. Garlic is great with everything, so what the heck, throw in some granulated garlic too. Then salt and pepper. But how to get the mixture to stick to the zucchini. Flash bulb time. Don’t sprinkle it on, press the zucchini into the coating. (It’s rare, but when a light bulb goes off in my brain, it can really be an exciting thing!)

So I slathered the wedges in olive oil, and pressed away. Worked beautifully, and the result was absolutely delicious! So at least until I fix another green veggie, zucchini is my favorite vegetable.

Hope you try this recipe. Zucchini could become your favorite veggie too.

  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. granulated garlic
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • ¾ c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 same sized zucchinis, cut in half, then half again lengthwise, and each half cut into 3 wedges
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil

Combine the seasoned salt, black pepper, granulated garlic, cayenne, and Parmesan cheese in a wide pan. (I use an eight-inch cake pan.) Place the zucchini on a baking sheet and slather with the olive oil. Press both cut sides of each wedge in the Parmesan mixture. Place skin side down on the baking sheet.

Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes or until the coating is a light golden brown. Serve hot out of the oven.

 

FRESH GREEN BEANS WITH SAUTÈED ALMONDS

Sometimes the easiest to prepare dish can be over-the-top delicious. But this simple vegetable dish is way too pedestrian to fall into that category! But, it is really, really tasty. And so simple to prepare. Of course, you have to like green beans. Duh! Luckily we happen to love fresh green beans, and eat them often.

Green beans are low in sodium, and very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. They are a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and manganese, as well as a good source of protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and copper. So I say – Go Green Beans!

Now, I could bore you with more of my usual verbal antics, but I’ve decided instead to keep this post informative and to the point. So – you need a new way to prepare an old standard veggie, try fixing your fresh green beans this way. I promise you won’t be bored in the least!

  • 1 lb. fresh green beans cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 T. unsalted butter
  • ½ c. slivered almonds   
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
  • freshly grated black pepper (not too much)

Steam the beans until crisp-tender. (If you aren’t going to use immediately, plunk the beans in ice water to stop the cooking process.)

Meanwhile, in a skillet over low heat, melt the butter and sauté the almonds until they are a light golden brown. Remove from heat; stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. (This can be done ahead of time.) When ready to serve, stir in the cooked beans. Serve immediately. (If you have prepared the butter sauce and beans ahead of time, reheat the sauce before adding the beans, then allow time for the beans to warm.)

ASPARAGUS, ROMAINE, PROSCIUTTO, AND TOASTED ALMOND SALAD

The other evening I couldn’t decide whether to make a green salad or cook some asparagus to accompany the Cabbage Casserole with Meatballs (recipe on site) and roasted sweet and Yukon gold potato chunks I planned to serve to family. I really didn’t want to fix a total of 4 dishes for a simple family meal, (4 is too many, 2 not enough), so I decided to go on line and see what I could find that combined romaine and asparagus. Well I found a recipe for a salad with only 4 ingredients on the Genius Kitchen site. (Great site BTW!) Of course right away I changed 2 of the 4 ingredients. (Of course I did!) Plus the site only gave suggestions for a dressing, rather than including one on the post. So I invented one that I felt would best complement the romaine, asparagus, prosciutto, and almonds.

And darn, if the salad didn’t turn out good. In fact it was delicious! And easy to fix. And each part could be prepared ahead of time and assembled just before serving. (My kind of salad, especially when cooking for guests!)

So next time you want a salad that also includes a green veggie, give this recipe a try. And yes, combining the salad and veggie is kind of a lackadaisical way of cooking. But I prefer to think of it as merely being “efficient”. I could of course refer to myself as simply being lazy. But lazy has such a negative connotation. I’ll stick with efficient.  

  • 1 T. finely diced shallot
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 T. sour cream
  • ¼ c. extra virgin olive oil   
  • 4-5 slices prosciutto 
  • 1 lb. asparagus, woody ends removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1½ hearts of romaine lettuce, cut into bite sized pieces
  • ¼ c. toasted slivered almonds

Whisk together the shallot, salt, pepper, mustard, lemon juice, sour cream, and olive oil. Store in the refrigerator until needed.

Place slices of prosciutto on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 13 minutes or until fairly crisp. Remove from oven and let cool. Break or cut into pieces; set aside.

Blanch the asparagus pieces in boiling water for 3 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Immediately dump into a bowl of ice water. When cold, drain and use a couple of paper towels to blot dry. Set aside.

When ready to serve, toss the prosciutto, asparagus, lettuce, and toasted almonds together. Add enough of the salad dressing to moisten the salad nicely, but not drown the ingredients. 

Note: The beauty of this salad, besides being delicious, is that every part can be prepared ahead of time. Isn’t that nice!

DRIED PORCINI MUSHROOM SAUCE

 

The other evening I wanted a sauce to go on some leftover meatloaf. But I wanted to fancy the meatloaf up a bit, without going to too much trouble. So I went on-line looking for a sauce/gravy recipe that included dried mushrooms. (I love to use dried mushrooms.) I came upon this recipe from Epicurious and knew I had found the new love of my life! The ingredients were perfect, so I cut the recipe in half and proceeded to the stove.

Well, I have to tell you, this is one of the best sauces I have ever tasted, and it’s darned easy to make. I changed the preparation instructions quite a bit, and eliminated 1 ingredient, but this is an Epicurious recipe at its finest.

So if you ever want a delightful sauce to enhance a piece of roast beef, ground beef pattie, or simple meatloaf, I would recommend you give this a try.

And for those of you who love sauces, make a double batch. I cut the recipe in half because I only had a small bit of meatloaf that needed a little “something”. Next time I will double the recipe even if I have to eat it on toast the next morning. It is simply that good! Thank you Epicurious

  • ¾ oz. dried porcini mushrooms, broken up (about 3/4 cup loosely packed pieces)
  • ½ c. warm water
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ c. sweet Marsala (and yes, Marsala comes in sweet and dry)
  • ¼ c. dry white wine
  • ½ tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 c. beef broth
  • ½ T. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ T. flour

Combine dried mushroom pieces and water in a bowl. Let sit for 30 minutes. Strain and squeeze the mushrooms reserving the water. Place re-hydrated mushrooms in another bowl. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil to medium in a large heavy pan. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent and thoroughly cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the Marsala and white wine. Cook over medium-high heat until the liquid is evaporated. Add the rosemary, mushrooms, mushroom liquid (don’t use the sediment), and the beef stock. Simmer until only about a cup remains, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, using a table fork, mush the butter and flour together. When the sauce is reduced, whisk the beurre manié into the liquid and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

Note: Beurre manié is merely a fancy sounding name for a mixture which means “kneaded butter” in French. When equal parts butter and flour are combined, beurre manié is one of the best ways to thicken a sauce, gravy, or soup.

WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH RAISIN BREAD

 

I know, another bread recipe! But in my defense, I have a new sourdough starter that I am trying to keep alive. So I’ve decided that I am going to bake bread weekly. That way I can use my starter (my sister-in-law named the starter Geneviève) and monitor the nutritional value in every single piece of toast we eat each morning. And yes, there is a huge difference in the nutritional value of different types of bread. Even homemade bread. Mostly it’s from the type and brand of flour used, and of course the added ingredients such as raisins, seeds, oats, and nuts.  

King Arthur, Red Mill, Stone-Buhr, Bluebird Grain Farms (Winthrop, WA), and the Central Milling Company organic unbleached, all-purpose flour carried by Costco are my personal favorites. And as much as possible I plan to incorporate organic whole wheat and rye flour into my recipes for both their flavor and nutritional contribution.

Both white and wheat flour are made from wheat berries. Wheat berries have three nutrient rich parts – the bran (outer layer), the germ (the inner most part), and the endosperm (the starchy part in between). White flour consists of just the endosperm, while whole wheat (thus its name) uses all three parts. Therefore whole wheat flour is much higher in fiber, folic acid, chromium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6, and vitamin E. And rye berries just happen to be one of the healthiest grains in the world. Using rye flour reportedly helps fight against diabetes, cardiovascular disease, weight gain, cancer, inflammation, and high blood pressure. (Source – Dr. Axe)

Most of the time we only have bread with breakfast. Occasionally we will share a sandwich for lunch, but only on rare occasions. So mostly we eat a slice a day in the form of toast. So when deciding what type of bread to try this week, I decided on raisin bread.

During my research, many of the recipes for raisin bread had you create a swirl by flattening out the dough and then sprinkling on the raisins and rolling the loaf like a cinnamon roll. Nice presentation, but too much work. So I just incorporated the raisins and cinnamon into the dough. (Same flavors, but less work.) So really, this bread comes together very quickly.

So, in short, this is not the only bread recipe I am going to post in the next few weeks. And yes I know, there are thousands of wonderful homemade bread recipes already on the internet. But I try to keep my bread recipes as healthy and easy to prepare as possible. And you’re right! Many of you are never going to bake your own bread, either because you have no desire to do so, or simply haven’t got the time. I truly understand. But for those of you who are teetering towards bread baking, I hope you give any of the bread recipes on this site a try. They are mostly quite easy to prepare and in the long run can save you money.

I did a quick and dirty cost analysis based on a basic French bread using King Arthur flour. I came up with about $1.70 worth of ingredients and cost to run our oven. ($.80 flour, $.38 yeast, $.02 salt, water, and fuel $.50.) To buy a truly good artisanal loaf weighing over a pound, you can expect to spend anywhere from $4-8. And even then, the quality of the ingredients used to prepare the bread is unknown. So if you want to have your bread and eat it too, get thee to the kitchen at your earliest convenience. If you have bread baking questions, you can always direct them to me by clicking on the “leave a reply” link. If you have questions about ship building or sports statistics for example, don’t bother!

  • ¾ c. sourdough starter (see recipe below)
  • 2½ tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2/3 c. room temperature water
  • ¼ c. brown sugar
  • 5 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1¼ tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 lg. egg
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • ½ c. old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ c. golden raisins
  • 1½ – 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • veggie oil

Combine the sourdough starter, yeast, water, and brown sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir with your dough hook and let sit for 15 minutes.

Add the butter, salt, cinnamon, egg, whole wheat flour, and oats; beat until well combined. Add the raisins and enough of the all-purpose flour to make a smooth, soft dough.

Add a tiny bit of oil to the mixing bowl, and using your hands, gently form the dough into a ball making certain that the entire surface is lightly coated with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 1½ to 2 hours, or until just about doubled in bulk.

When the dough is ready, gently deflate the dough, divide in half, form into 2 loaves, and place in two lightly greased 4½ x 8½-inch loaf pans. Cover with a clean tea towel and allow the dough to rise for 1½ hours or until nicely plumped.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. When done, the bread’s crust should be a beautiful golden brown, and the interior should measure at least 190 degrees on an instant-read digital thermometer.

Remove the bread from the oven, and gently loosen the edges. Turn onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Sourdough Starter

  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 c. warm water

Combine all ingredients in a plastic juice pitcher using a wooden or plastic spoon. (Don’t worry about lumps because the little yeasty beasties will make short work of dissolving the lumps!) Cover with lid, turning strainer in lid to pouring lip. (This allows air to reach the starter.) Let ferment 3 days at room temperature, stirring several times daily. After the third day, transfer starter to a covered glass container and refrigerate.

To use, remove desired amount for recipe and replenish starter by stirring in equal amounts of flour and water or follow the instructions for the particular bread you are making. Let stand at room temperature overnight. Return to refrigerator.

If a clear liquid forms on top, stir back into starter. Every time you use, replenish with equal amounts of flour and water. Even if you don’t use every week, replenish every 7 – 10 days with equal amounts flour and water. (First remove about ½ cup of the existing starter. This allows room in your container for the new flour (yeast food) and water.) Use in any of your favorite bread, muffin, or pancake recipes.

 

 

 

 

   

MAPLE SYRUP AND CINNAMON GRANOLA (ZERO CHOLESTEROL)

Part of our morning routine is to have breakfast. Sounds pretty normal, right? But you would be surprised at the number of people for whom a latte is their only nourishment before lunch. Not so at Chez Carr. We love breakfast. But the older we get, the more we have to watch what we eat. (That sounds pretty normal too.)

So, in keeping with watching our cholesterol levels and trying to help you do the same, may I recommend that you incorporate granola into your morning repast. Many granolas, like this one,  contain zero cholesterol ingredients. Zip, zero, nadda! Of course, granola on its own would be pretty hard to swallow. Literally! So we usually eat our daily ¼ cup of granola with ¼ cup of Greek yogurt, at roughly 10mg of cholesterol, or with a ¼ cup of 2% milk with roughly 5mg of cholesterol. Since the Mayo clinic recommends no more than 300mg of cholesterol for healthy people, and no more than 200mg for those with diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart disease, I feel OK with serving yogurt or 2% milk with our granola.

Now I realize you can buy granola with zero cholesterol ingredients. But homemade granola contains zero ingredients with unpronounceable names. (You pay dearly for those names that are too difficult to say!) You also don’t get nearly the amount of nuts and dried fruit as in a homemade granola.

And yes, I know granola is not inexpensive. But if you buy your oats, nuts, coconut, and dried fruit in bulk, you will save an amazing amount of money. And truly, making your own granola takes just minutes to prepare. And parents, those boxes of sugared cereal are not a substitute for healthy granola or a well balanced hot meal. They are never going to keep your children energized until lunch. (No guilt trip intended.)

True story. I fixed a simple breakfast for my kids every school morning. Usually scrambled eggs, toast, and juice. Sometimes oatmeal or another hot cereal, but always something hot and nourishing. When my dearly loved son Sven went away to college he told me he was excited because he could finally eat cold cereal for breakfast! His enthusiasm lasted for a week. Exactly 7 days after being away from home he called me. The first words out of his mouth were “cold cereal isn’t as great as I thought it would be, and the coffee here is terrible!” You would be proud of me. I didn’t start laughing until he was off the phone.

  • 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil  
  • ¼ c. real maple syrup  
  • ¾ tsp. vanilla  
  • 1¼ tsp. ground cinnamon  
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg  
  • 1 tsp. fine-grain sea salt  
  • 4 c. old-fashioned rolled oats  
  • 3 c. nuts – walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, hazelnuts (I use a combination)
  • 1 c. unsweetened coconut
  • 1½ c. chopped dried fruit – apples, prunes, cherries, blueberries, apricots, golden raisins (again, I use a combination)

Whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. Add the oats, nuts, and coconut.  Spread evenly on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. (Don’t wash the bowl yet.)

Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven until lightly browned, about 25-30 minutes. Stir once or twice during the baking. (Watch carefully, as coconut and nuts can burn easily.) Remove from oven and scoop back into the mixing bowl. Add the chopped dried fruit. Stir to combine. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

 

CHICKEN, PROSCIUTTO, ALMONDS, AND DRIED CRANBERRY SALAD

If I could bake a chicken with as much flavor and for the same price as a Costco rotisserie chicken, I’d be one happy camper. And even though I have a couple of good recipes for baked chicken on this site, for ease of preparation, nothing beats a trip to the Costco meat department. But Mr. C. and I can’t possibly eat a whole chicken at one seating! So, we usually start with the thighs and drumsticks, and save the breasts and other bits for future use. Since Costco chicken has so much inherent flavor, it is perfect in casseroles, soups, and of course salads.  

So the other evening, wanting to serve a chicken salad for dinner, and just happening to have leftover Costco chicken in the fridge, I went on line and found a recipe on the Diethood site. I changed it up a bit to fit our tastes, and the following recipe is the result.

This salad is hearty, flavorful, and perfect for a couple of senior citizens trying to eat healthier. Of course, even if you aren’t a senior citizen, you can prepare this salad and feel good about it. Eating healthy is not just the domain of those of us in our “golden years”. (Some might have said “those of us who are elderly”, but I hate that term. Its definition is just too relevant and therefore to be avoided at all costs!)

Synonyms for the word “elderly” – aged, advanced in years, long in the tooth, past ones prime, in ones dotage, decrepit, over the hill, senescent (whatever that means), and my favorite – doddery. (If elderly isn’t a horrible word to refer to oneself, I don’t know what is!)

So to all of you who are young at heart, regardless of your age – give this recipe a try. It’s easy to prepare, and tastes like one of those specialty salads served at fashionable restaurants. How cool is that?

  • 4-5 slices prosciutto  
  • ½ c. sour cream 
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T. finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 romaine hearts, thinly sliced or greens of choice
  • ¼ c. chopped red onion
  • 1 cooked boneless and skinless chicken breast, cut into ½ -inch cubes (I use a breast from a Costco rotisserie chicken)
  • ½ c. toasted slivered almonds
  • ½ c. dried cranberries (the low sugar kind if you can find them)

Place slices of prosciutto on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 13 minutes or until fairly crisp. Remove from oven and let cool. Break or cut into pieces; set aside.

Meanwhile, whisk the sour cream, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, rosemary, garlic, seasoned salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese together in a small bowl. Set aside. (If too thick, add a little water.)

In a large salad bowl combine the lettuce, red onion, chicken, toasted almonds, cranberries, and crispy prosciutto. When ready to serve, toss with salad dressing.

 

GROUND BEEF PATTIES WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR SAUCE

OK, so here goes yet another ground beef pattie recipe. But as most of you already know, I love ground beef. Which incidentally, is a good thing since we still have about 20 pounds of beautiful ground beef in our freezer from the quarter of a beef we purchased a few months ago.

So the other evening, after having already spent what I consider to be way too many hours in the kitchen, the subject of “what’s for dinner” entered into our conversation. (In all fairness, it was dinner time. And normally at this time of evening I would be sipping one of Mr. Cs perfect martinis, while simultaneously chopping greens and stirring a sauce.) But that wasn’t happening. Instead I was finishing the stew I would be serving guests in a couple of days. So then, what to do about dinner?

I had some fresh green beans in the refrigerator longing to be used. I had a couple extra Yukon gold potatoes I didn’t need for the stew. So into the oven they went. So that just left the entrée.

The previous evening we had eaten at the restaurant at our local golf course. I had ordered the steak and it had come with a delicious balsamic reduction sauce. So I thought, why not try reproducing that sauce and serve it over ground beef patties. So that’s what I did!

Mr. C. retrieved a package of our precious ground beef from the freezer and I nuked it until it was defrosted. Then I added a couple of ingredients, fried the patties, and threw the sauce together. It was wonderful! And oh so easy. And hardly any effort. (That’s the part I liked the most!)

So if you ever need an entrée you can throw together in just a few minutes, give this ground beef recipe and sauce a try. (And yes, I did think of entitling this recipe Hamburger Steak with a Balsamic Reduction Glaze. But the patties were just so simple to prepare, that I thought a haughty designation would be just too presumptuous.)

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1T. Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • ¼ tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • ¼ c. balsamic vinegar
  • freshly ground black pepper (lots)

Mix the ground beef, steak seasoning, and granulated garlic together. Pour olive oil into a small frying pan. Form the ground beef mixture into 3-4 patties. Cook until medium rare or to your liking. Remove from pan. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Add the butter, balsamic vinegar, and pepper to the pan. Cook over low heat until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Plate the ground beef patties and drizzle with the sauce.  

 

 

  

CHEWY SOURDOUGH BREAD

Sourdough bread on top

Even if a person is one of my newest acquaintances, they probably know that I love bread. (There are just some things I can’t keep secret!) OK, not store bought white bread, but really good artisanal bread. And homemade yeast bread, as far as I’m concerned, falls into that category.

So when I want my guests to feel at home, I bake bread for them. And as scary as that might seem to some of you, baking yeast bread is not rocket science. It’s science, but there are no rockets involved. However, there are rock stars! They come in the form of tiny little, seemingly insignificant granules commonly known as yeast. And yeast is no more frightening to use than either baking powder or baking soda. (For the science around yeast, baking powder and baking soda, please refer to the articles below.)

After all, yeast is just another leavening agent. But unlike both baking powder and baking soda, you get to watch the progress the little yeasty beastie cells make as they digest food to obtain energy for growth. This results in the production of carbon dioxide gas. (The dough seemingly grows before your very eyes.)

Now, I am not going to tell you that this sourdough bread is easy and perfect for bread baking beginners. The instructions alone would probably put a beginner off bread baking for years. This bread is more for people with time on their hands and nothing better to do! So why all the falderal in the first couple of paragraphs about the ease of bread baking if you’re just going to tell me not to bake this bread? Well, I want you to consider baking your own bread. Maybe not this one, but I have plenty of other bread recipes on this site that are easy and perfect for beginners. For example – Overnight Rye Beer Bread, Soft French Baguettes, or Light Rye Bread. I would also invite you to read my article on Bread Baking 101 for more information about the fine art of baking your own loaf.

For seasoned bread bakers, go for it! This recipe, based on a King Arthur flour recipe doesn’t have difficult instructions. You just have to understand that sourdough bread dough feels “funny” and reacts differently from regular yeast doughs. But if you like sourdough bread that’s chewy and soft at the same time, and has a lovely crunchy crust, this is a great recipe.

Again for beginners, baking bread is not difficult. It simply takes some planning and time management. But the reward is worth the effort. The ingredients in bread are inexpensive. There are no added ingredients with names too complicated to pronounce, and the smell while the bread is baking is irresistible.

Look for another bread recipe coming soon. I’m on a roll. Or should I say baguette?

Sourdough Starter

  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 c. warm water

Combine all ingredients in a plastic juice pitcher using a wooden or plastic spoon. (Don’t worry about lumps because the little yeasty beasties will make short work of dissolving the lumps!) Cover with lid, turning strainer in lid to pouring lip. (This allows air to reach the starter.) Let ferment 3 days at room temperature, stirring several times daily. After the third day, transfer starter to a covered glass container and refrigerate.

To use, remove desired amount for recipe and replenish starter by stirring in equal amounts of flour and water or follow the instructions for the particular bread you are making. Let stand at room temperature overnight. Return to refrigerator.

If a clear liquid forms on top, stir back into starter. Every time you use, replenish with equal amounts of flour and water. Even if you don’t use every week, replenish every 7 – 10 days with equal amounts flour and water. (First remove about ½ cup of the existing starter. This allows room in your container for the new flour (yeast food) and water.) Use in any of your favorite bread, muffin, or pancake recipes.

Day 1 – Sourdough Bread (2 day process)

  • 1 c. sourdough starter
  • 1½ c. lukewarm water
  • 4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2½ tsp. kosher salt

Combine the starter, water, and 3 cups of the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat vigorously for 1 minute. Cover, and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight, or for no less than 12 hours.

Add the remaining 1 cup flour (or more as needed), and the salt. Using the dough hook, knead until a smooth dough forms. (The dough will feel different than regular bread dough. Even though the dough gets to a point where it won’t accept anymore four (the bowl appears clean as a whistle and stays that way while the dough is being kneaded), the dough should still be tacky to the touch. That is what you want!)

Allow the dough to rise in the mixing bowl loosely covered with plastic wrap until it is light and airy, with visible gas bubbles. (Depending on the vigor of your starter, this may take up to 5 hours (or even longer). Gently deflate the dough every hour or so by pushing it down with your fist. When the dough is light and airy, gently divide the dough in half.

Shape the dough into two rounds or oval loaves, and place them on a lightly greased parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise until very puffy, about 2 to 4 hours or longer. (Give the loaves sufficient time to become noticeably puffy). Don’t worry if the loaves spread more than they rise; they’ll pick up once they hit the oven’s heat. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Just before placing in the pre-heated oven, spray the loaves with lukewarm water. Slash the loaves. (If you’ve made round loaves, try one slash across the center, and a curved slash on each side of it; or slash in the pattern of your choice. For oval loaves, two diagonal slashes are fine.) Make the slashes fairly deep; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works very well.

Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. (I turn on the convection option on my oven about 10 minutes before the bread is due to come out of the oven. This helps give the crust a nice golden brown color.) Remove from oven, and cool completely on a rack. (Sourdough bread is fully baked when an instant-read thermometer registers 195-200 degrees.)

Store bread cut side down and loosely draped with a tea towel for several days at room temperature; freeze for longer storage.

Day 1 – Sourdough Bread (3 Day Process for a tangier sourdough flavor)  

  • 1 c. sourdough starter
  • 1½ c. lukewarm water
  • 4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2½ tsp. kosher salt

Combine the starter, water, and 3 cups of the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat vigorously for 1 minute. Cover, and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight, or for no less than 12 hours.

Add the remaining 1 cup flour (or more as needed), and the salt. Using the dough hook, knead until a smooth dough forms. (The dough will feel different than regular bread dough. Even though the dough gets to a point where it won’t accept anymore four (the bowl appears clean as a whistle and stays that way while the dough is being kneaded, the dough should still be tacky to the touch. That is what you want!)

Allow the dough to rise in the mixing bowl loosely covered with plastic wrap until it is light and airy, with visible gas bubbles. (Depending on the vigor of your starter, this may take up to 5 hours (or even longer). Gently deflate the dough every hour or so by pushing it down with your fist. When the dough is light and airy, gently divide the dough in half.

Shape the dough into two rounds or oval loaves, and place them on a lightly greased parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and place back in the refrigerator for 12-16 hours. Remove from fridge, and let rise until very puffy, about 2 to 4 hours or longer. (Give the loaves sufficient time to become noticeably puffy). Don’t worry if the loaves spread more than they rise; they’ll pick up once they hit the oven’s heat. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Just before placing in the pre-heated oven, spray the loaves with lukewarm water. Slash the loaves. (If you’ve made round loaves, try one slash across the center, and a curved slash on each side of it; or slash in the pattern of your choice. For oval loaves, two diagonal slashes are fine.) Make the slashes fairly deep; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works well here.

Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. (I turn on the convection option on my oven about 10 minutes before the bread is due to come out of the oven. This helps give the crust a nice golden brown color.) Remove from oven, and cool completely on a rack. (Sourdough bread is fully baked when an instant-read thermometer registers 195-200 degrees.)

Store bread cut side down loosely draped with a tea towel for several days at room temperature; freeze for longer storage.

What is Yeast? Source of article – Red Star Yeast website

Yeast are single-celled fungi. As fungi, they are related to the other fungi that people are more familiar with, including: edible mushrooms available at the supermarket, common baker’s yeast used to leaven bread, molds that ripen blue cheese, and the molds that produce antibiotics for medical and veterinary use.

Yeast cells are egg-shaped and can only be seen with a microscope. It takes 20,000,000,000 (twenty billion) yeast cells to weigh one gram, or 1/28 of an ounce, of cake yeast.

The scientific name for the yeast that baker’s use is Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, or “sugar-eating fungus”. A very long name for such a tiny organism! This species of yeast is very strong and capable of fermentation, the process that causes bread dough to rise.

Yeast cells digest food to obtain energy for growth. Their favorite food is sugar in its various forms: sucrose (beet or cane sugar), fructose and glucose (found in honey, molasses, maple syrup and fruit), and maltose (derived from starch in flour).

The process, alcoholic fermentation, produces useful end products, carbon dioxide (gas) and ethyl alcohol. These end products are released by the yeast cells into the surrounding liquid in the dough. In bread baking, when yeast ferments the sugars available from the flour and/or from added sugar, the carbon dioxide gas cannot escape because the dough is elastic and stretchable. As a result of this expanding gas, the dough inflates, or rises. Thus, the term “yeast-leavened breads” was added to the vocabulary of the world of baking.

The ethyl alcohol (and other compounds) produced during fermentation produce the typical flavor and aroma of yeast-leavened breads.

How Do Baking Powder and Baking Soda Work? Source of article – exploritorium.edu, the accidental scientist

Baking powder and baking soda both produce carbon dioxide, which helps raise or “leaven” baked products. Baking soda works best in conjunction with an acidic ingredient. In the case of banana bread, this may be buttermilk, brown sugar, molasses or the bananas themselves. Recipes generally include just enough baking soda to balance the acidity in the batter. For instance ¼ teaspoon baking soda is balanced with ½ cup buttermilk, applesauce or mashed just-ripe banana (note that bananas become less acidic as they ripen). This produces sufficient carbon dioxide to raise one cup of flour.

This however, may not be sufficient to leaven the whole recipe. Here’s where baking powder comes in. Baking powder contains both baking soda and a dry acidic ingredient. Since it isn’t dependent on acid ingredients in the batter, it is used to add the extra leavening necessary to raise the rest of the batter. Generally one teaspoon of baking powder leavens one cup of flour. In the case of recipes like banana bread which contain heavy ingredients, such as bananas and sometimes heavy grains like wheat germ or whole wheat flour, this may be increased to 1½  or 2 teaspoons of baking powder per cup of flour.