Friday, January 31, 2014

Air Buns

I am always looking for better buns.  Both in the kitchen and in my mirror.  I never can resist jokes like that.  I am silly that way.  These buns really are the best.  I have made brioche buns before and these are even lighter than those.  Both are good mind you, but these are a bit more tender.  I really think it is the addition of vinegar.  It might seem weird that there is vinegar in the dough but this is the second recipe I have made that had vinegar in the ingredients and it came out stellar.  I want to say I made other recipes with vinegar but then my memory doesn't serve me that well. 

These are worth your every moment in the kitchen.  Really.  They are just that good.

I had some friends over and made my beet burgers.  I adjusted those beet burgers by replacing the sunflower seeds with walnuts because the sunflower seeds tend to repeat on me.  It was even better with walnuts.  I highly recommend beet burgers.  My husband who HATES beets, loves them.  You would hardly know they were made with beets.  Because they are red, they look like meat. Not that I need them to look like meat but they are pretty.
Air Buns
Printable here.

1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tablespoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup lard or shortening
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 1/2 + 3 cups bread flour, divided
1 egg whisked with a tablespoon of water for the wash

In a bowl of a mixer or a regular bowl combine 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 cup warm water.  Sprinkle yeast over top and let sit a moment until foamy.

Meanwhile melt lard and add to it the sugar, salt, and white vinegar. Add in 1 1/2 cups of flour.  Let sit fifteen minutes.

Knead intot he dough the remaining 3 cups of flour.  Knead until smooth and supple.  Let rise until it is doubled, about an hour.

Shape into 16 buns. Brush with egg wash. If you like sesame seeds on them, this is the time to do it.  Place on greased sheet and let rise for about a 1/2 of an hour.  Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes.

Sometimes you make buns that are less than round.  Well, at least sometimes I do.  Not sure what happened there but it tasted the same.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Marbled Rye Bread

 Love rye bread. Love the flavor.  Saw this amazing recipe from Fine Cooking.

Marbled Rye Bread

Adapted from this recipe at Fine Cooking, Issue 127.  You can watch a video with Peter Reinhart demonstrating the technique.  If you want, you can even take a class from Craftsy from Peter Reinhart. It would be time well spent.  He is a great teacher in my opinion.

Printable here.

For the light dough
8 oz. (1-3/4 cups) unbleached bread flour; more as needed
4 oz. (3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs.) dark rye flour
1-1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. instant (quick-rise) yeast
1  tablespoon ground caraway seeds 
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. room temperature water (70°F to 75°F); more as needed
1-1/2 Tbs. vegetable oil; more as needed
1 Tbs. unsulfured mild molasses

For the dark dough
8 oz. (1-3/4 cups) unbleached bread flour; more as needed
4 oz. (3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs.) dark rye flour
2 to 3 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. instant (quick-rise) yeast
1 tablespoon ground caraway seeds 
3/4 cup plus 3 Tbs. room temperature water (70°F to 75°F); more as needed
1-1/2 Tbs. vegetable oil; more as needed
1 Tbs. unsulfured mild molasses

For shaping
Nonstick cooking spray
Vegetable oil

For baking
1 large egg

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the flours, salt, yeast, ground caraway seeds, water, oil, and molasses on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium low and knead on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth and tacky, about 4 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add more bread flour one tablespoon at a time, kneading to incorporate. If it’s very stiff, knead in water one tablespoon at a time.

Rub a little vegetable oil on a work surface to create an 8-inch circle, and put the dough on this spot. Using your hands, stretch and fold the dough up and over itself from all four sides into the center, pinching the seam where the folded ends meet, forming it into a tight, round ball that is smooth on the bottom.

Invert the dough ball, setting it seam side down in a lightly oiled bowl that’s twice the size of the dough. Tightly cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1-1/2 hours.

Repeat this process with the dark batch of rye. The doughs should end up having a similar feel.  Read more about this at Fine Cookings original recipe here.
After rising remove doughs from bowls and divide each into two. Take a while piece and roll into a round. Take a dark piece and roll into a round.  Place dark round on top of white round and roll, pinching seam at the end.  Place in a greased loaf pan.  Repeat process with other half.

Cover and let rise for about an hour.

Brush loaves with egg wash.   

Bake in the middle of a 350F oven for about 20 minutes and then rotate.  Bake about ten minutes more.  The internal temperature should be about 190F.  I use a meat thermometer to check the temp.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rye Boule

I love the churn dash design on top.
I am pretty jazzed about this bread.  I have tried to make bread like this before and was completely unsuccessful.  Not this time.  It worked.
 I had my doubts though.  I never worked with such a fluid dough before.
 The flavor is amazing. Add a little butter.  I called it my lunch one day.
 I think it has pretty good structure.  I know its not perfect.
Doesnt it look like it is calling your name?
Here is my big blow out on the side. Apparently I did not cut in deep enough on the top.  I think.  What I do know is that I will be making this again.

You know how I usually say, this is easy bread to make.  I encourage you all the time to make bread- its so much easier than you think.  I wont say that with this bread.  It was a PAIN in the neck.  You have to attend to it more regularly than other breads.  It is more liquidy making it a bit of a  challenge to work with.  It also requires a small amount of sourdough.  So you have to have that too.  Having said all that I will say this is one of the best breads I have ever had.  It ranks right up there near the top.

So, if you are up to the challenge, here goes:

If you want to original recipe, please refer to my new favorite bread book- Amy's Bread by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree; John Wiley and Sons Inc. The recipe is called Organic Miche, page 139.

This recipe here is a largely adapted and truncated version. It is very different that the original because I used what I had on hand.

And in case you didnt know about Wild Yeast- Susan's blog is a fantastic resource for all things bread.  She has collected lots of peoples recipes for bread. There are video how to's and great information all around on her blog.  I really recommend it if you want to learn more about bread.

Rye Boule

1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
3 (257 grams) cups warm water
2/3 cup (165 grams) sour dough starter
4 1/4 cups (635 grams) unbleached flour
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) rye flour
3 tablespoons (23 grams) kosher salt

Mix all the dry ingredients in a mixer.  Add water.  (Since I use instant yeast, I never proof it).  Mix for 1 1/2 minutes on low speed.  Scrap down sides and mix five minutes more.  Cover the bowl with plastic and let rest 10 minutes.

Mix again for two minutes on medium-low speed.  Place dough in oiled bowl and let rise for 30 minutes.

Remove from bowl and five bread a couple turns on an oiled surface.  Fold in from the right, left, top and bottom.  Place smooth side up in bowl and let rise for 30 minutes.

Repeat the previous step and let rise 30 minutes again.

Turn dough out again and this time fold in as above.  Keep working it this time in a circular motion.  At this point you are making a dough ball.  Place back in oiled bowl and let rise for an hour or more.

Thirty minutes before the bread is done rising heat the oven to 480F. Place ice cubes in a loaf pan in oven just before bringing bread in.  I spray the sides of the oven with water when I put the loaf in and quickly cloes the door.  After 20 minutes reduce temperature to 450F. Spray the sides of the interior of the oven again. Bake 50 minutes more.  It may take longer depending on whether or not you use a stone.  The internal temp should be between 190 to 200F.

As hard as it is, cool completely before cutting into it.

Check these videos out:

I love this guy on the left so gracefull forming the dough ball.

Here is another guy with detailed instructions.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Split Pea Soup II

A lot of soup here lately.  I did not make these all this week.  Its been over the past month or so. It sure had been soup weather.  Bitter cold temps.  A bowl of soup just warms you to the bone.  Its one of my favorite meals to make in the winter-  soup, with a nice loaf of bread and a salad.  Love it.  So easy.  And I can prepare it the night before, in the morning, whenever and just reheat before dinner. 

This is a classic, split pea soup.  I hated it as a child.  Hated peas.  Yes, thats all changed.  Except canned peas- I still can't stand them

Printer version found here.

2 cups split peas
1 ham bone
2 cups carrots
1 cup onion, minced

1 bay leaf
2 quarts water
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup celery

In a soup pot combine split peas, water, bay leaf, one cup onion and a ham bone. Cover and gently simmer for about 30 minutes.  Remove ham bone and cut up any meat that may be in there.  Add carrots, thyme and celery to the pot. Cook for another 30 minutes more. Remove bay leaf and discard before serving.

* I know this may sound strange to some but I dont like really sweet soups so sometimes I add vinegar.  If tomatoes or carrots or whatever makes my soup too sweet, I add in cider vinegar.  Maybe a tablespoon or two, depending.  Its a taste thing.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Moroccan Fava Bean Soup

I bought some dried, shelled fava beans and there they sat in my pantry for , oh, I don't know, nine months.  I bought more, not thinking I already had some.  Feeling guilty and wondering why I can not remember what is my pantry... Could it be that I have many dried beans... too many dried beans.  Anyway- time to use them.

This recipe really sounded good and am happy to report it really was good.  I had a cup of it for lunch the other day with a teaspoon of olive oil drizzled into it- delicious. 200 calories.  I ate banana yogurt mixed with applesauce after I ate the soup.  Boy did I feel so proud of myself for having sucha wholesome meal.  The whole meal 350 calories and it was so good.

I did skip the sautéing part of the recipe since I had to cook the dried beans anyhow- I just started adding things to the pot. I would love to try this recipe again with fresh fava's I am sure it would be even more stellar.

Moroccan Fava Bean Soup
You can find the original recipe here at the NYTimes.The recipe is from
Martha Rose Shulman who is the author of “The Very Best of Recipes for Health.”  It was my starting point.
Printable recipe here.

1 pound dried fava beans or 1/2 pound frozen double-peeled (2 cups)
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium or large carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery ribs, diced
4 cloves garlic
1 small potato (about 4 ounces), peeled and diced
2 quarts water, vegetable stock or chicken stock
2 teaspoons Lawry's salt
2 teaspoons sumac
A bouquet garni made with a couple of sprigs of parsley, a bay leaf and several sprigs of cilantro
freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/3 cup chopped cilantro plus additional leaves for garnish

Soak beans overnight.  Drain and place the beans in a soup pot.  Add enough water to cover the beans by about four inches.  Add in salt, garlic, pepper and onion.  Cook covered on low simmer for about 40 minutes until beans are tender.  Add in the carrots, celery, potato, salt, sumac, bouquet garni, pepper and turmeric. Cook for about 30 minutes.  Remove bouquet garni and puree the soup in a blender.  Spoon into serving bowls.  Sprinkle with cilantro and drizzle with olive oil.

If you want to make your own seasoned salt- which I will when I finish the bottle of Lawry's, combine the following:

2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hoppin John Soup

It kind of looks ugly but don't be fooled by its appearance- it's delicious.  Loaded with some really good things- it makes for an easy and nutritious meal. I make a lot of soups a day ahead of time. It gives it time to marry. 

So great to have soup after you spend any time out in the cold. Serve some cornbread with it for a complete meal.

Hoppin' John Soup
Printer friendly recipe found here.

1 pound dried black-eyed peas
2 small smoked ham hocks or meaty ham bone
2 medium onions, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
4 cups kale*
1 bay leaf
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 quart diced tomatoes
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 green onions, sliced

In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, combine the black-eyed peas, ham bone or ham hocks, and 6 cups water. Cut 1 of the onions in half and add it to the pot along with the garlic and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until the beans are tender but not mushy, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove the ham bone or hocks, cut off the meat; dice and set aside.

In a frying pan sauté onions, celery and peppers in oil. until lightly golden and add to the pot of soup. Also add in the rice, 2 cups water, kale, seasonings, tomatoes and salt. Cook for about 20 minutes.  Add green onions to the serving bowls.

*I used my kale that I had froze in the summer.  All cooked, I added about 2 cups.  If you buy it at the store- you may want to par boil in another pot because it sometimes can leave behind a bitter taste.  I have not found this with bagged baby kale though.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

I found this recipe on Pinterest.  My morning reading while having my cup of java.  I know, its kind of lame.  I should be reading the paper or something, right?  Eh, lots of sensationalism in the media.  I have come to distrust the news.  But that is rather tangential.  I am talking cookies here.  Anyway, on Pinterest I honed in on this recipe. I looked at several like it.  But they all seemed to be basically the same thing.  So I thought, it must be pretty good.

Well, I dont know what I did wrong.  The directions said it would take 20 minutes flat to make this cake- given a 9 inch round.  I had it in a ten inch round.  You think cooking time would be shorter, right?  Wrong.  30 minutes.  Honestly, I think it could have baked longer but who doesn't like gooey chocolate chip cookie dough.  So I warn you, it may not firm up like you might expect or maybe you should cook it longer but you may just get what you want- chocolate chip cookie dough- baked- kinda-...

Having said that.  I would make it again.  Disappeared mighty fast.  I cut up the last few slices into cookie sizes so that everyone could get a taste at my husbands work.  Off it went. From what I hear it disappeared pretty fast there as well.

I decorated mine with cherry flavored frosting.  And it was really cherry flavored.  The kids loved it.  My one daughter proclaimed, "its the best cookie cake I have ever eaten.  And Mom, that is saying a lot because everyone brings in one of these to class for birthdays. So I have had a lot of them." So there you go.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
Printable here

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Prepare a 10 inch spring form pan.  Line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat butter and sugars together for five minutes- it will be nice and white and fluffy.  Add in vanilla, salt and egg.  In a separate bowl combine flour, corn starch, baking soda together.  Fold in chips with a spatula.  Spoon into the spring form pan and bake for about 25 to 35 minutes. The center will be rather gooey.  That was what the kids liked about it.  But if that is not your thing you could stick it under the broiler to toast is a little more.  Watch it very closely though.  Me and my broiler kind of have this love hate relationship going on.  When it works its wonderful when it doesn't its horrid...

Before decorating.
Cherry frosting here...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Large Batch Oatmeal Cookies

One cookie that is made around here other than at holiday time is oatmeal cookies.  It is a favorite.  I make them and freeze them. Pop two into a baggie for my kids lunches and they are good for eating by the time its lunch time at school.  Having them in the freezer keeps me from eating them. It also keeps them fresher longer.

These cookies are great.  We loved them more than our usual oatmeal cookie recipe. They are a bit crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.  They keep pretty fresh for a few days.  

All that being said, if you are two lazy or too busy to do cookies but want some oatmeal treats, try these.  They are really good too.

Large Batch Oatmeal Cookies
This recipe is kind of large for a Kitchen Aid mixer, though I did use mine for creaming the butter and sugar... up until the part where you add in the flour.  Then I transferred it to a large bowl.
Printer version found here.

2 cups butter
3/4 cup shortening
3 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 1/4 cups white sugar
5 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
4 teaspoons vanilla
6 cups of oats
5 3/4 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups raisins

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray or grease cookie sheets lightly.

Cream butter, shortening and sugars together in a large bowl.  Beat for five minutes until light and fluffy.  Add in eggs, one at  a time. Add in buttermilk and vanilla.  

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Mix into dough just until incorporated.  Add in oatmeal and raisins.

Drop by tablespoon onto cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Mix in possibilities:  dried fruit, nuts, cinnamon chips...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tapioca Pudding

Every time I pass by Kozy Shack tapioca pudding (yes, they make tapioca as well as rice pudding) in the store I think- I want to buy some.  But I don't because it is too sweet for me, kind of expensive and I have a boatload of tapioca at home, waiting for me to cook it up.  This has been going on for about a year.  Seriously.  When I do finally make it, I always double it because it goes really fast in our house.  

Tapioca Pudding
A really cream delicious treat.  A half cup serving is about 105 calories. Enjoy with fruit for a delicious dessert.
Printable here.

1 cup small pearl tapioca
4 cups water
1 cup sugar 
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 yolks*
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups milk, 2%

Soak 1 cup of small pearl tapioca in water overnight. 

Ladle out any extra water, do not drain because you will lose starch.  You need the starch to help thicken your pudding.

Pour into large pot.  Add 5 cups of milk and the salt.  Stir regularly over a medium heat.  Meanwhile, whisk eggs with sugar until the yellow lightens.  Set aside. Towards the end continue to stir so it does not burn on the bottom.  When it begins to boil, temper the eggs. Pour a ladle of the hot tapioca mixture into the eggs, whisk quickly.  Then stir into the large pot of tapioca. Simmer for five minutes**.

Mix in vanilla. If you put the vanilla in while cooking it will lose some of its flavor during the cooking process. Pour tapioca into ramekins or a large bowl.  Cover with plastic or place lids on top. This will minimize the 'skin' it gets as it cools. 


I like to pour it into jelly jars.  I place the lids on right away. This way I do not have to put plastic on it.  Though my one daughter likes the 'skin' on top.

*Many people beat the egg whites until peaks form and fold it into the tapioca at the end of the cooking time.  I haven't tried this but if you have let me know what you think of egg whites vs. no egg whites.

**Mine set up long before the five minutes.  I went ahead and turned it off and it set up perfectly.  So certainly if you see it thicken go ahead and turn it off.  It definitely will set up a lot as it cools.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Apples and Oats Muffins

How's that for a breakfast?  Delicious and healthy- bonus.

Had to post this recipe before I forgot what I did.  Loved this.  My youngest daughter proclaimed, I could eat this every day for the rest of my life.  Nice comment but that might get a little boring after a while.  But they are good enough to eat a lot.

Works out to be 165 calories.  Not bad.  Combined with some egg whites and you have a nice balance of protein and carbs.

I will say that this muffin really is amped up by good coconut oil.  The kind that tastes like coconut.  If you decide to swap the oil out for something else, you will not have the same results.  If your oil that you choose does not have any flavor I would suggest some almond extract for a little added flavor.

Apples and Oats Muffins aka Full Of Goodness Muffins
For a printable recipe, click here.

half of a banana, mashed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup applesauce, unsweetened
1/2 cup coconut oil- first press
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 large egg plus an egg white
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners.  This recipe will make about 16 regular muffins.

Mix dry ingredients together in a small bowl:  oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt.  In a large bowl mix together applesauce, banana, sour cream, egg, vanilla and brown sugar.  In a microwave safe bowl, melt coconut oil.  Not too much.  You don't want it piping hot, just melted.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir.  Add in coconut oil.  Spoon into muffin tins.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Make Your Own Sauer Kraut

Since NY State is one of the largest suppliers of cabbage, I thought it was only fitting that I post about sauer kraut.  I have been wanting to make my own sauer kraut for so long.  Why didnt I?

One reason was that I was afraid my house would be filled with stinky cabbage.

Two, I thought it is too scary, I might give my family botulism.

Three, procrastination.

Finally, I overcame my hesitation and made it.  It wasn't the least bit stinky.  Keep that cabbage covered in its juices and there will be no botulism.  The part about procrastination, I just got over that.

In the end you will be rewarded with sauer kraut and its juices.  So good for you.  It will aid in digestion.  Thats the big thing right now, fermented stuff, isnt it?  
You might have seen on some blogs that doing them in mason jars is easy.  I tell you that I did not find it the least bit easy.  I initially placed the cabbage in mason jars.  I did let the gas out periodically but what I found is that the brine was pushing out of the jars on its own. I lost a lot of necessary juice.

It was also really hard to weight it or push it down in mason jars.  I eventually transferred all but half to a crock.  The other half was not under the brine for a couple days.  It just wasn't worth risking it.  I used that jar as a wait for the remainder of the time. 
So my advice to you is to do it in a crock.  So much easier!
My version printable found here.
Making sauerkraut takes 1 to four weeks.
Initially when I was waiting for the salt to pull the water out of the cabbage I put it all in my Crockpot.  It was perfect for the job initially. I flipped the crock lid upside down and put a weight on it.  I used my flour canister.

Equipment Needed
a plate or something that is non reactive that you can place weights on for the top of the sauerkraut
a weight to keep the plate submerged

5 pounds cabbage
3 tablespoons sea salt

-Chop or grate cabbage, finely or coarsely.  Sprinkle salt on the cabbage, tossing it in. The salt pulls water out of the cabbage and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting.

-Mix ingredients together and pack into crock. Pack just a bit into the crock at a time and tamp it down hard using your fists. This pressure packs the kraut tight and helps force water out of the cabbage.

-Cover the cabbage with a plate or some other lid that fits snugly inside the crock. Place a clean weight on the cover. This weight is to force water out of the cabbage and then keep the cabbage submerged under the brine. This can take up to about 24 hours.

-Leave in a cool place to ferment or you can keep it in the kitchen (away from heat sources or sunny windows).  

Links to information on making sauer kraut:

Wild Fermentation
The Kitchn:  Making Sauerkraut

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Green Hummus

This was one of those, now you see it, now you don't type dishes.  My daughters don't necessarily like hummus.  My one daughter only likes Sabra.  I'd rather make it home made but she doesn't eat it when I do.  The other daughter doesn't even like hummus.  They both loved this.  Loved it.  And my husband who just adores hummus, of course, loved this.  I think this will be made a lot around here for school lunches.  So glad to find something other than the usual...

Green Hummus

Adapted from this recipe at the LA Times
Printer friendly version found here.

2 cups arugula (also known as rocket)
1/2 cup cilantro
3 green onions, diced
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 cups garbanzo beans
s and p to taste

In a processor combine arugula, cilantro, green onions, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil to the mixture. Once you get it mixed and it starts looking creamy, add in garbanzos. Blend until pureed.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sweet Potatoes in Bourbon Sauce

It's sad and lonely, one sweet potato in a sea of delicious sauce but it is all I have left people!  These were eaten rather quickly.  At the dinner table it was too dark for pictures.  But I must share it with you because it is a fabulous way to make sweet potatoes.

Yesterday, I made my way through tons of boxes, tissue paper, bows and wrapping paper in my storage area.  All piled there just to get it out of the way.  It's all neat and organized now and in its proper spot.  Whew, that makes me feel so much better.  Sometimes I put it off and it is like a thorn in my side, driving me crazy.  Why do I put it off when it makes me feel so good to do it?

Which led me to thinking as I lay sleepless in bed last night.  Why do I not do things specifically that would make myself happy?  Now, I am not a resolution kinda girl anymore because it just never works for me.  Last night, I did make a resolution, to love myself more.  Love myself by doing nice things for myself.  Eating right, getting exercise and cleaning the house more because it makes me happy.  If I am eating right and exercising more then I will have more energy to clean the house, right?

I think this is the best resolution that I can make or have ever made really. I know its kind of late in the game but I did give up smoking 16 years ago on Martin Luther King.  It wasn't necessarily a resolution but definitely on my list of habits that had to go.  Sixteen years later I couldn't be more happy about that decision.  It was pure freedom.  I no longer had to worry about where my pack of cigs were or if I had my lighter or not.  Cause DANG it sucks to have a cigarette and not have anything to light it with.  Its like a piece of meat hanging in front of a starving lion just out of his reach. 

The goal I always want to have is to lose weight.  That this will be my year.  But I have shifted my thinking.  Loving myself and honoring myself enough to do what is right will likely have the desired result of losing weight but it is where my attention will lay that will serve me much better.  Towards the end of 2013 I did lose 10 pounds and have managed to keep it off over the holidays.  I like that kind of momentum.  And you know I deserve that kind of momentum.  So onward ho!

Just a little tidbit about diets.  I very much believe in eating a healthy, well balanced diet.  That means eating carbs.  I know the rage is no to low carbs with this whole Paleo thing but I have to tell you, unless you are eating tons of fruit you probably will not get the carbs your body needs.  And your kidneys don't like that.  Read about ketosis some time.  If you want, ask me and I will put together an article about it.  Ketones are VERY bad for your kidney and can potentially shut them down.  I worked in dialysis and the last thing you want is for your kidneys to shut down because you did not eat enough carbs.

Simply cutting back on your carbs will have the desired effect.  Certainly choosing the right carbs will also be very beneficial to the level of insulin and satiety. So do your research.

You will find the usual here at my blog.  While I will certainly be eating less sugar that is not to say there won't be an occassional treat.  I also believe in whole, real foods.  No diet crap.  Have the real thing but less of it.  So don't worry, it will be more of the same thing my blog has always been.  Salads, mains, desserts, snack and appetizers and so on.

Whew, that was probably one of the lengthiest posts I have ever wrote. Onto the recipe people! Yeah!

Sweet Potatoes In Bourbon Sauce (swoon)
This recipe, found in December 2013 issue of Southern Living.  Adapted.
My version printable found here.

4 large sweet potatoes, unpeeled
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon butter
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 425°. Pierce potatoes several times with a fork. Place directly in oven.  Bake until done but not mushy. It should still feel a little firm but have give to it.

While the sweet potatoes are baking, bring orange juice and next 5 ingredients to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer, stirring often, 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat.

Without bringing your fingers. I used a fork and a delicate hand to peel the skins off the potatoes.  You can certainly wait until they are more cooled but I was kind of in a hurry.

Place in a 9 by 13 pan cut side down and pour sauce over them, return to oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, depending on how much you had previously cooled them to peel them.  I like having them in the oven and already to go for company.  It was pretty too. If you want them browned , you can put them under the broiler but you need to watch them very closely as they will go from pretty to charred in no time.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Baked Ziti

All I can say is boy, am I glad I had yesterdays post up and ready to go a few days before it went up.  In the last few days the last thing I felt like doing is writing.  On New Years Eve I found out I had shingles on my face.  Yup, shingles.  I really only thought shingles come around when you are older or immuno compromised.  Nope, according to my doctor it can just happen and they really aren't sure why.  It started last Friday when I had this stinging sensation near my eye.  Couldn't quite figure it out.  I thought it was an allergy of some sort but day by day my bridge of my nose started to become more red and swollen.

Yes, shingles can happen on your face.  I thought only the torso.  I have learned a lot.  Also, if you suspect you might have shingles, go and find out because after day 3 of the onset there is really nothing they can do that will help you.  No drugs. No relief.  Day five is when it peeks.  Of course, when you don't really know what is happening and you try not to run to the doctors too often because it is just too costly...                      

Shingles lesson learned.  I hope I have helped you in some way. 

On to the food.  The glorious food.

I saw this picture, similar to the one above on Pinterest.  Clicked on the link because I was intrigued by a casserole that looked like pizza. Had to make it.  My husband and kids love this kind of stuff.  Here is what it is, looks like pizza but it is really baked ziti in disguise.  Now, you certainly can substitute any kind of pasta here but ziti or rotini or something tubular are my favorites for this type of dish.

Baked Ziti in Disguise
Click here for printable without commentary.

1 pound cooked pasta, such as ziti or rotini, al dente
2 cups mozzarella
1/2 cup peccorino romano or Parmesan (a good parmesan)
2 quarts marinara sauce
1 pound ricotta
pepperoni, sliced thin, what ever amount you like
2 pounds Italian sausage

Cook pasta, mix with marinara, set aside.  Mix the pasta with the marinara in a large pot.  It should be pretty soupy.  The pasta will absorb the marinara as it bakes, so you want enough liquid in there for that.

Cut sausage into small bite sized pieces and fry until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.  Set aside. I cut it before frying then there is more areas for browning.

In a large casserole dish... I used this nice disposable tin because I was sending it into my husbands work but certainly if you are having company over, you could put it in a pretty dish (or even two if you dont have one that big).  Clean up is a snap in one of these disposable tins though.   Spoon a layer, about half of the pasta on the bottom of the dish.  Spread half of sausage over pasta, scattered so everyone gets some sausage when they dig in.  Spread half of mozzarella and Parmesan over top. Sprinkle evenly. Spoon glops of ricotta over pasta- again as even as possible.  It does not need to be covered with ricotta though.

Add the next layer of pasta and repeat process but end with the mozzarella. Lay slices of pepperoni all around. Cover and bake in a 350 F oven. Bake for 45 minutes.  Remove foil and bake 10 or 15 minutes more to brown.  I always forget to do this so mine was not brown.

After you remove it from the oven give it about 10 minutes to set.