Saturday, October 27, 2012

Something From Nothing #3: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Pain d'Epi

You might be a little bit surprised that my Something from Nothing recipe this month is for a homemade yeast bread, but please do yourself a favor and trust me on this one.  I have to admit that I was skeptical myself when I first heard of this recipe, but no more.  I'm a believer.

I have to give credit to my discovery of this recipe to blogger friend Jane of No Plain Jane's Kitchen.  She brought the most delicious loaf of olive bread to a little get together and I couldn't keep my hands out of it.  It was crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside with a pleasant briny flavor from a generous amount of shiny black olives that she had scattered throughout.  It was pretty close to perfection.

Of course I cornered her before she could get out the door and asked her for the recipe.  She nonchalantly told me that it was from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg M.D. and Zoe Francois.  Being reminded once again of how much I don't know, I had never heard of this book but was intrigued by the premise.  

Jane told me that in a nutshell, you stir up water, yeast, salt and flour, store it in the fridge, take out a little bit when you want it, shape it, bake it and voila!  I went home that night and Googled the recipe and found many sites mentioning the recipe and they all gave rave reviews of its simplicity and flavor.

After making it a couple of times, it is now my turn to give my endorsement to this genius recipe.  It is just unbelievably simple and almost fool proof with its lack of kneading and long rising time.  Even beginners can make this bread with confidence.  Best of all you can change it up by mixing in herbs, olives, cheese or changing its shape like I have done here and make something spectacular.   This recipe even makes enough basic dough for 4 - 5 delicious loaves that you can store in your fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day - Master Recipe

This actually takes a bit longer than 5 minutes from fridge to table, but it is still super simple.  The 5 minutes refers to the hands on preparation time which is minimal.

3 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon (2 packages) granulated yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt 
6 - 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a 5 - 6 quart lidded container combine the water yeast and salt.  Add the flour in all at once and stir with a long handled spoon or dough whisk just until it is mixed together.  I did this step in the bowl of my stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and it worked great.  At this point the dough will be very wet and rough looking.

Since I don't have a really big container with a lid, I transfered my dough to my large oval slow cooker crock which I greased with a little olive oil, covered it loosely with the lid (to let the gases escape) and set it on the counter top for two hours to rise.

After the two hour rising time the dough will pretty much fill the container.  Do not punch it down as it will settle on its own.  At this time the dough will probably be flat on top with bubbles that appear to be popped. 

You can now remove some of the dough (floured kitchen shears makes removal very easy) and bake, or place in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks to use later. 

The next day you will notice that the dough has collapsed.  This is the intended nature of the dough and it will never again rise in the fridge.  Before removing any of the dough, sprinkle the top with just bit of all-purpose flour to keep it from sticking to your hands.

Remove a piece of dough about the size of a grapefruit.  To shape the dough into a boule or ball, stretch it between your hands rolling and tucking it to the bottom.  Rest the dough on a piece of parchment paper or a cornmeal covered pizza peel.  Let the dough rise on the counter top for 40 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.   Place a pizza stone or heavy metal cookie sheet inside the oven to preheat as well.  Place a metal (not glass as it could shatter) baking pan on a rack at least 5 inches under the stone and preheat it as well.

Slide the bread onto the preheated pizza stone or cookie sheet.  Carefully pour 1 cup of water into the hot metal pan to produce steam in the oven as this will make the outside nice and crusty.  Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  Remove bread from the oven and cool completely before slicing.

My notes:

If you use some of the dough immediately after the first rising it will be very sticky and a little bit hard to work with.  I prefer using it the next day as it is designed to use right out of the refrigerator.

Grapefruit size pieces of dough will produce 4 - 1 pound loaves of bread.  For my family of 4, I use pieces the size of a large orange which will produce 5 small to medium size loaves.

Once you get the hang of this dough, you can shape it into a baguette, boule, batard, couronne, Pain d'Epi or any other shape you can imagine.

I don't have a pizza peel or a pizza stone so I let my bread rise on a cornmeal dusted piece of parchment paper which I just slide onto my hot cookie sheet to bake it.

The baked bread is best when made no more than 1 day in advance, and ideally just a few hours before serving.

If you seem unsure about any of my instructions, I highly recommend that you watch Zoe and Jeff's videos.  They are both helpful and fun to watch.  This really is an easy recipe.  After you make it once you can just about do it in your sleep.

Pain d'Epi using the Master Recipe

I used this same simple recipe, then shaped my bread to look like a sheaf of wheat, known as Pain d'Epi. Even though the finished product may look hard to achieve, it is really a snap and so much fun to do by following these easy steps.

Remove 1/4 to 1/5 of the dough from the refrigerator.  Shape it into a long skinny baguette shape. Starting a couple of inches from the end, clip dough with a pair of floured scissors at a sharp angle, leaving about a 1/4" base at the bottom.  Turn the clipped portion to one side.

Repeat the clipping and turning about every 2- 3 inches all the way to the end of the dough turning the clipped portions in opposite directions.

Sprinkle the prepared dough with flour to give it a rustic appearance after baking.

Bake bread at 450 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until it is golden brown and crusty on the outside.

Not only is Pain d'Epi pretty, but the best thing is that it also bakes into the perfect size pull-apart rolls for easy serving.  After removing it from the oven be patient and let the bread cool before cutting and serving for optimum results.  Cutting while warm will result in a dense doughy texture instead of the chewy crusty roll pictured above.

Monday, October 22, 2012

I'm Bringin' Scary Back: Reviving the Halloween Carnival and a Bowl of Cincinnati Chili

When I was a kid I figured that all the stuff that my parents' generation had messed up would be fixed by my generation when we came into power.  Even though we have indeed fixed a few, there are some things that we have totally blown.  Take Halloween for example, my generation has taken a perfectly good holiday that was sanctioned by our parents and squeezed most of the fun right out of it.

Even elementary schools that were once the epicenter of spooky fall fun have mostly done away with the inaugural ball of the holiday season, the Halloween carnival.  At the very least the name has been changed to the more palatable (for some that is) Harvest Festival or the downright bland, Fall Festival.  Come on folks, I have a great idea, let's put the scary back in the Fall Festival and call it Halloween.

It really wouldn't be hard to get it back.  We can start out by turning off the TV and opening up the school one beautiful fall night and decorating the classrooms like haunted houses and carnival arcades.  Then let's go old school and dress some of the teachers up like gypsies and let them pass out funny little fortunes and pixie stix.  The school principal can dress up like Quasimodo and his wife can come as Esmeralda (or vice versa), and what the heck, we'll let them pass out some red lollipops.  Why not? It's just once a year.

We can then give out a prize for best costume.  No, not everyone can get a prize, just one person can have the best costume.  Don't worry the others will live through it.  It may not be politically correct but that's OK.  Life is full of little disappointments.  This will help everyone accept the fact that you can't always be number one. 

While all this is going on, some of the moms and dads can be in the cafeteria kitchen dishing up some ground meat wonder like spaghetti or chili and selling it for next to nothing.  The children can play games and show their off their costumes while the other parents can get to know the teachers and each other so they can get an idea of who their kids deal with everyday.

And then for a little nightmarish authenticity, someone who has had too much fun can throw up in the hallway and Quasimodo and Esmeralda can clean it up with a giant string mop and a bucket on wheels, just like back in the good old days.  Wow, sounds terrifying doesn't it?

I'm just really not sure why we feel the need to homogenize everything until it is just bland and vanilla (oops, sorry Vanilla, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings by calling you bland).  I just think it is a shame to see this fun family activity go the way of the Casper the Friendly Ghost, straight to oblivion. 

So I guess it is up to the next generation to fix the stuff that my generation has messed up.  I'm hoping that our kids will see how badly we've blown this one and will restore to its old glory. So come on everyone, lighten up, relax and have a chili dog and a handful of candy corn, they really do have magical fun powers.

Inspired by the good old days, I thought I'd post a recipe for a ground meat wonder that I have recently discovered and absolutely love, Cincinnati Chili.  I had heard of this famous concoction for years and had always meant to give it a try, then one day I found a packaged spice mix at my local supermarket.  I made it and we loved it. 

Since blogging about a package mix wouldn't be any fun, especially for those of you who can't find it on your grocer's shelves, I went on a search for a great authentic homemade recipe.  I turned to a dear friend of mine who is a great cook herself and just so happens to be from Cincinnati, for her recipe.  Much to my surprise she directed me to her favorite package mix and offered to send me some on her next trip back home.

Plan B.  I turned to the Internet and managed to combine a couple of recipes, threw in a couple of my own touches and came up with one that tastes just as good as that favorite package mix of my friend.  It's not exactly what I would call chili and it is not exactly what I would call spaghetti sauce either.  It is kind of like a combination of both with its own special aromatic flavor. You can serve it over anything you want but I don't see how it can get much better than serving it poured over spaghetti with a ton of grated cheddar cheese and a sprinkling of onions on top.

Cincinnati Chili

1 tablespoon oil
1 small onion, finely minced
4 cups beef broth
1 – 8 ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
1/4 cup mild chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf

To serve:
Cooked spaghetti
Grated cheddar cheese
Finely chopped onions

Place oil in a stock pot and heat over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté until they are soft and transparent, approximately 5 minutes.
Add beef broth, tomato sauce and vinegar to the onions and stir well.  Add the uncooked ground beef, breaking it up as it is added. 

Add the chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, allspice, salt and bay leaf.  Reduce the heat to low, break up  clumps of meat before covering the pot and cooking for 1 – 1/2 to 2 hours. 

Once the cooking time is over remove the bay leaf and skim any fat that has accumulated on top.  Serve hot over cooked spaghetti with grated cheese and chopped onions.

*If you are going to be in a pinch for time on the night you serve it, keep in mind that this recipe is great when made the day before and refrigerated overnight.

Serves 8

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cool Breezes and Deja Vu: Crispy Bubble and Squeak Pancakes

Not so cute at 3 am

My dog got me up before dawn this morning to go outside.  Actually, he tried to wake my husband, but he pretended to be asleep knowing that I would eventually give in.  I want Mr. H to know when he reads this that I am onto him and one of these days I am going to outlast him and let the dog pee on the floor on his side of the bed.  Having gotten that out of the way, I must say that our dog rarely ever does this, but I find it suspicious that when he does, it is when he has had a bath the day before. Retaliation? I think so.

When this happens in most places you can just open the door, let your dog out and stumble back to bed, but not where we live.  In our neighborhood there are constant sightings of coyotes, foxes and owls, and in the surrounding areas there are frequent sightings of mountain lions and bears.  None of which I am sure would pass on the chance to munch on a well fed little house dog.  As he puttered around in the dark, I tried to tell him he could be a snack at any moment, but like most kids he refused to listen.

So as I stood in the blackness of the night in my robe and flip flops ready at any moment to do hand to hand combat with a bear, I closed my eyes and just for a moment was transported back to England.  I don't know, maybe I was dreaming, or maybe it was a combination of the soft cool breeze and a rare hint of moisture in the Colorado air, but a strong sense of deja vu came over me and I swear I could have been standing on my front porch in Nottingham.  Now I'm homesick.

Since the weather made me a little bit sentimental about the UK, and since I also had a bowl of leftover mashed potatoes and some sauteed cabbage in the fridge,  I decided that this was a good time to post one of my favorite English recipes, bubble and squeak.

Thought up as a way to breathe new life into leftover vegetables from Sunday lunch, there are versions of this recipe which range from a loose colcannon-like mixture of mashed potatoes and cabbage or any other vegetable that might be in the fridge, to crispy fried potato pancake-like patties.  It is the crispy pancakes that I love the most and are the subject of this post. 

Crispy Bubble and Squeak Pancakes

If I am mashing potatoes with this dish in mind, I just usually boil 2 medium potatoes,drain them and mash them with maybe just a little bit of salt, pepper and butter to season them but still make them as stiff as I can get them.  If I am using leftover mash from the recipe link below, I normally have to add a little bit of flour to stiffen them up to counteract all of the goodies I usually add to them.  This helps them hold together as they are fried. 

As for the cabbage I use, I usually saute my cabbage with bacon and onion so it is usually "dry" when I mix it in with the potatoes.  If you are using leftover cabbage or other vegetables (a big favorite is brussel sprouts), make sure they are drained and as dry as you can get them so your patties will hold together.

2 medium to large size russet potatoes, peeled, boiled, drained and mashed or 1 - 1/2 cups of your favorite leftover mashed potatoes (click here for my recipe if needed)
1 cup chopped boiled or fried cabbage (recipe follows)
1 egg, beaten
2 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for drying out leftover potatoes, if needed
3 - 6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Place potatoes, cabbage, cheese, egg and salt and pepper in a large bowl and fold together to combine completely.   If needed add flour a tablespoon at a time to stiffen the mixture until a handful of the mixture holds together when formed into a patty (about 1 - 3 tablespoons, you don't want to add to much as it will take on a "floury" taste).  Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions and form into patties that are about 1/2" thick; set aside.

Pour the all-purpose flour on a plate.  Dredge each patty in the flour, coating on each side; set aside.

Pour 3 tablespoons of  the oil into a medium size frying pan that has been set over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot fry patties until they are golden brown on each side, approximately 5 minutes on each side.   Due to the size of my pan I cooked my patties in two batches.  If frying in batches, add additional oil if needed.  Keep patties warm in a low oven until ready to serve.

Serves 4 to 8.

Fried Cabbage

2 slices bacon, chopped
1 small onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces raw cabbage (about 1/2 of a small head), thinly sliced then chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed

Brown bacon in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Just before it becomes crispy add the onion and saute until it is soft and transparent.  Add the cabbage and saute with the bacon and onion in the drippings until it becomes limp, stirring frequently, approximately 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook and stir for approximately one minute longer.  Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for another 10 - 15 minutes or until the cabbage is tender.

Makes approximately 1 cup which feeds approximately 2 people.  Recipe can be easily doubled.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Settling Into Fall with Some Perfect Scarecrow Food: Deviled Bell Peppers

It is about this time every year that I quit lamenting the passing of summer and embrace the beauty of fall.  It usually takes me awhile, but I finally pull out the quilts and the sweaters and move on.  Once I come to terms with it, I remember that I really do love everything about the season, the colors, the clothes, and of course the food.

The other day I happened to run across some beautiful local produce that the grocer was almost giving away.  I couldn't believe my luck when I left with two full bags of seasonal treasures and change left over from a $20.00 bill.

After I got home and started trying to find a place to put everything, I found that there was no room in the fridge for three of the four gorgeous round orange bell peppers at the bottom of my bag, then I  realized it must be destiny.

After digging around a bit I managed to assemble the perfect storm of ingredients for a really fun seasonal recipe, and even though it hasn't been that long since I posted something similar, I think you'll agree that this is a fun twist on an old favorite worth seeing.

Deviled Bell Peppers

4 - 5 large or 6 medium to small orange (on any other color you prefer) bell peppers
1 slice of bread
1 small yellow onion
1 large clove of garlic
1 tablespoon milk
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 pound pork sausage meat
1 tablespoon beef bouillon granules
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup cooked brown or white rice (I love brown basmati)
1/2 cup grated medium cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten
2 cups crushed tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut tops from peppers reserving them for decoration.  Remove the seeds and membranes from the tops and insides of peppers.  Poke 3 to 4 holes in the bottoms of the peppers; set aside.

Place the bread, onion, and garlic in the bowl of a mini food processor and process until the mixture is finely ground.  Add milk and process for just a couple of seconds to combine; set aside.

In a large bowl, place the ground meat and sausage.  Sprinkle with the bouillon, pepper flakes, rice, cheese, contents of the food processor and the egg.  Stir together just until combined being careful not to over work the meat. 

Divide the meat equally among the prepared bell peppers and stuff inside packing just enough to eliminate any air pockets.  Place reserved pepper tops loosely on top of the meat. 

Place inside a lightly greased baking dish, cover with foil and place in the preheated oven.  Bake for 1 to 1-1/2 hours (depending on the size of your peppers) or until they are cooked through.  If tops are beginning to shrivel and burn you can take them off and set them aside at this time.

Remove the foil cover and pour crushed tomatoes evenly around the tops of the peppers or around the bottom of the dish.  Return to the oven and bake for an additional 20 - 30 minutes to heat the tomatoes.

Remove from the oven, replace the tops and serve with a bit of the tomatoes.

Serves 4 - 6

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Day with the Colorado Beef Producers and Colorado State University: Slow Cooked Beef Pot Roast with Sour Cream Gravy

Like most people I give a lot of thought these days about the food I feed to my family.  Every time I shop I spend much of my time reading labels and weighing the pros and cons of organic and natural versus conventionally raised meat and produce, and the effect of their cost on my bank account.  With a stressed economy, financial considerations are now the number one concern of more and more households.  Studies show that 95% of consumers make their purchases based on price.

When it comes to cost, volume shopping can certainly help cut down the cost of food, but where does that leave those who have been impacted by the economy and can't afford to buy large supplies of food all at one time?  Or what about people who live in small apartments in crowed urban areas and don't have room to store large quantities of food? Shopping for a family can be a real balancing act.

Fact is that most of us have regular size kitchens and regular size pocket books.  Personally, I don't know of anyone who wouldn't prefer to buy 100% of their food from organic producers if they could afford it.  This is why when you read my recipes I never specifically call for organic ingredients.  I figure that if you can afford them, that's what you'll use, and if you can't well, no judgments here.

A few weeks ago Barb of Creative Culinary asked me if I'd like to tag along with her to a seminar put on by the Colorado Beef Producers and Colorado State University called Beef + Transparency = Trust.  Promising to throw back the covers and show all sides of conventionally produced beef, the sponsors and producers tempted us with a day of speakers, interesting information and a Wagyu beef lunch.  Lunch aside I really was thinking that I'd rather take a stick in the eye, but knowing that this is something I really need to learn more about, I reluctantly agreed to go, and I am really glad that I did.  This turned out to be a really interesting day.

When we arrived at the hotel we could tell that something big was going on and it probably wasn't our seminar.  From the looks of all the cops and big guys in black suits with earpieces, it was apparent that we had either stumbled into the lair of one of the presidential contenders or Justin Bieber was in town.  Well darn, it wasn't Justin Bieber, but all the excitement did perk us up a bit.

So we checked-in and got down to business.  Starting with the basics, there are four different classifications of meat on the American market and they are broken down as follows:

1.  Organic
- Born and raised on certified organic pastures
- Never received antibiotics
- Never received growth-promoting hormones
- Are fed only certified organic grains and grasses
- Must have unrestricted outdoor access
*Certain vitamin supplements and vaccines are allowed under the organic guidelines to insure and improve the health of the animals.

2.  Grass Fed -
- Generally this is defined by cattle that have eaten only grass or forage throughout their lives.  Some producers do call their beef grass fed but then actually finish the animals on grain for the last 90 to 160 days before they are slaughtered.
Grass Finished -
Finishing is just another word for the time that cattle are normally fattened for the last few months before processing. Typically, feed lots finish cattle for 90 to 160 days on grain, usually corn, whereas, grass finished cattle are fattened on grass only until the day that they are processed.

3.  Natural -
- The product must be minimally processed.
- The product cannot contain any artificial ingredients.
- The product cannot contain any preservatives.
*The USDA has no specific restriction on management practices during the life of the animal.

4.  Conventional -
- Conventional beef is from cattle that spend most of their lives grazing on grass in pastures but are "finished" for the last 120 - 200 days in a feeding operation (feed lot) where they receive a formulated diet or grain, roughage and nutrient supplements.
- Cattle may be given antimicrobials/antibiotics to prevent diseases and to treat illnesses such as bovine respiratory disease.  There is a mandatory 42 day withdrawal (waiting) period before human consumption and a prescription is needed.
- Cattle may be given small amounts of hormones to replace those their bodies do not produce because they have been castrated to avoid aggressiveness.  These hormones aid growth and reduce methane production.  There is no withdrawal time for any of the approved hormone implants available in the US.

Personally, I understand the limited use of antibiotics.  If you have sick cattle, it would be inhumane not to treat them and let them suffer.  I do feel comfortable with the FDA approved withdrawal time before human consumption and the necessity for a prescription.  I also believe that it would not be economically sound for ranchers to capriciously overuse them.

I must admit that hormones in meat still bother me.  I think we've all heard of the theories of the affects of  hormones in our food.  My main concern, children entering puberty at earlier and earlier ages.  If you look around there are many foods that naturally contain hormones and according to studies, hormones found in beef are one of the minor offenders in the food chain, but it is the collective effects of all the hormones we consume that make me squirm.  I am uncomfortable about the addition of them to our food no matter how small.

As the day moved on, we watched interesting and thought provoking presentations from industry leaders and experts in the fields of  sustainability, animal health, animal care, human health in relationship to protein in the diet and a fascinating hour with Dr. Temple Grandin discussing animal well-being and society.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Dr. Grandin, she is a  Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University and a world renown designer of livestock handling facilities.  Not only was she named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in 2010, she was also the subject of the popular HBO movie, "Temple Grandin" which chronicled her life and her journey through autism. 

Even though I was really looking forward to her talk because of my concern for the treatment of livestock, I was also dreading this segment the most because I knew we would probably have to see video or photos of animals being slaughtered.  Sure enough, as the video began a warning popped up on the screen.  Telling myself that if I am going to eat meat I owe these animals the respect of facing how they die, I kept my eyes fixed on the screen and watched.  It was difficult.

Thanks to Dr. Grandin's efforts, the animals that are directed through her curved chutes and center track restrainer system, then shot in the proper manner with a captive bolt stunner are killed in a quick, low stress and humane manner.  She has also developed an objective scoring system for assessing handling of pigs and cattle at meat plants to improve their last hours of life.  I can't possibly emphasize enough how important I believe her work is in promoting animal welfare.

We were also introduced to fourth generation Colorado cattle rancher Sara Shields, who spoke to us on the more personal side of ranching.  Her passion and love for her family business, the land and its wildlife, and the animals she raises was really quite emotional.  Being from rural Texas, I have known many cattle ranchers and all of them, without exception, love what they do and are respectful of the animals and the land that supports them.  I find it comforting that they feed their families the same meat that they produce and sell to the public.  It is independent ranchers like these who raise 98% of this nation's beef.

While there are many vocal opponents of conventionally raised beef, fact is that 95% of Americans consume it, while 4% prefer to buy organic, low fat, natural or grass fed beef, and the remaining 1% are vegetarians/vegans.  This post is in no way written to encourage consumption of any one type of beef.  The food you choose to eat and serve your family is a very personal decision. 

To be quite honest we don't eat that much beef at my house, but when we do we really enjoy it.  After my day with the Colorado Beef Producers I must admit that I do feel better about eating beef. . . all types of it.  If you are part of the 4% that eat only organic or natural, my congratulations to you.  If you are part of the population that buy and eat conventionally raised beef I hope you learned a little something about the choices you make and feel just a bit more informed about what you put on the table.

One additional bit of information that we learned on this day is the reason that inexpensive cuts of meat seem to be dwindling off store shelves.  It seems that modern beef consumers prefer to buy meat that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less, passing on the cheaper cuts of meat that take much longer to cook. Nowadays many of our mother and grandmother's favorites are being ground into hamburger meat which makes me a little bit sad.  There's just something about a slow cooked pot roast on a cold winter's night that is so comforting.

Luckily I am still able to find these less expensive cuts of meat on occasion.  Since today is a beautiful cool fall day here in Colorado, I'm firing up the slow cooker and filling it with savory goodness.  My family is really going to enjoy this change of pace. 

Slow Cooked Beef Pot Roast with Sour Cream Gravy

1 - 2-1/2 to 3 pound chuck pot roast
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Season roast on both sides with equal amounts of the salt and pepper before dusting both sides with the flour; set aside.

Heat the oil in a medium size skillet over medium high heat.  Sear the roast on both sides and transfer it into a slow cooker or baking dish.  Deglaze the skillet by adding the beef broth and stirring to remove any bits on the bottom.  Add the wine and stir.  Pour the liquid over the roast.  Add the garlic, bay leaf and dried thyme.

Cover the slow cooker or covered baking dish and if using a slow cooker, cook on low for approximately 4 - 6 hours or until fork tender.  If baking in the oven cook in a 325 degree oven for approximately 2 hours or so checking for tenderness before removing from oven.

Serve with sour cream mushroom gravy, recipe follows.

Sour Cream Mushroom Gravy:

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 ounces sliced button mushrooms
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups liquid (strain and measure drippings from the slow cooker or baking dish and add enough water to measure 3 cups)
2/3 cup sour cream

In a skillet set over medium high heat melt butter with the oil.  Add the mushrooms and saute for approximately 5 minutes or until they soften.

Sprinkle the mushrooms with the flour and stir to coat.  While stirring, add the liquid to the pan.  Continue stirring until mixture comes to a simmer and thickens.  Add sour cream and stir well to incorporate.  Reduce heat to low to keep warm until serving.

Serves 4 - 6

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Muy Bueno Spotlight #3: Vangie's Sopaipillas and a Giveaway


Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway.  Rosemary was chosen as my winner this time.  Please check back for more great recipes and giveaways.  I've got a great one coming up for a Downton Abbey cookbook in the weeks to come.

Oh decisions, decisions.  For my final post in the Muy Bueno Spotlight I have really had a hard time chosing what to make.  I know, I was whining about this "problem" in my last post, but it is true.  Between the gorgeous photos and all the recipes I am anxious to make, this has been the hardest part of writing these last two posts.

My plan was to cook a recipe from each contributor.  My first recipe was for Yvette's Mushroom, Jalapeno and Cilantro Salsa, the second for Veronica's awesome Shredded Brisket Tacos, so obviously this post belongs to Vangie. 

I thought that a cocktail would be nice so I flipped through the book looking for her favorite and found it interesting that all the cocktail recipes belonged to her daughters. Hmmm, I guess we know who drinks all the cocktails in their family.  Just sayin' ;-)

Thinking that a dessert would be good I searched through the book again and finally decided on Vangie's sopapillas.  In the book she says she really likes savory fillings for  her sopapillas and I do like that too, but I LOVE them the way I first had them, warm with cinnamon sugar and lots of honey.  The only person in my family who loves them more than me is my son.  Man, is he going to think he's died and gone to heaven when he gets home.

Sopaipillas (Sopapillas)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
3/4 cup warm water
Cinnamon-sugar (1 teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed with 1/4 cup sugar)

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in shortening, mixing together until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Gradually stir in water just until dough pulls together. I did this step in my food processor and it literally took just moments.

Divide dough into 5 pieces.  Roll out each piece of dough on a lightly floured surface into an 8-inch diameter circle.  Cut each circle into 4 wedges.

Heat about 1 - 2 cups oil (I set my heat to medium high) in a deep frying pan.  (When the oil is good and hot) Add a few of the the tortilla wedges at a time.  The wedges will puff up.  Turn once so they will puff evenly on both sides; then turn back to brown on both sides.

Drain on paper towels.  While warm, coat each sopapilla with cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Serve with honey. 

Makes 20 pillowy crispy clouds of deliciousness

I'm a little sad that this is my last recipe in this series and our cookbook spotlight has come to an end.  I have really enjoyed these last three posts.  Through their recipes and beautiful photos, I feel like Yvette, Veronica, Vangie and of course, Jesusita, have welcomed me into their family and set a place for me at their table.

This book is full of old and new family recipes that are sure to satisfy any of your Mexican food cravings.  With beautiful color photographs of each and every dish (which is my true measure of a great cookbook) you will certainly be like me, unable to make up your mind which dish to prepare.  Two of my favorite little touches in the book are the sillouettes which indicate who the recipe is credited to and the memory or thought that is associated with each.

My Muy Bueno Cookbook now has a special place in my kitchen next to my other well loved books.  Even though this is my last recipe for this spotlight, it is far from being the last time I will use this book.  I still can't wait to make those Mexican Wedding Cookies, or that delicious sounding Roasted Green Chilis with Buttermilk and Cheese dish, oh yeah, and then I'm going to try those Stacked Red Enchiladas, then maybe . . . well, you get the idea.

Hippocrene Books and Muy Bueno have provided the participating bloggers of this spotlight with an extra copy of the Muy Bueno Cookbook to give away to our readers.  If you'd like to enter my giveaway please just leave me a comment saying so.  That's it.  It is that easy.  I'll draw my winner on Monday, October 8th.  You never know, you may just be one comment from having your own place at the Muy Bueno table.  One comment only please.  Sorry, but this contest open to US residents only.

*This post is part of the Muy Bueno Cookbook Spotlight; Cook-Off sponsored by Hippocrene and hosted at girlichef.

**Even though I have been furnished with both a cookbook for myself and one to give away courtesy of Hippocrene, the opinions stated here are my own.