Nooks and Grannies

January 30, 2011 15:06 by Suzy

No football this weekend, so I've kept myself busy baking bread and making a bean soup.  Hopefully the soup will be good enough to feature here later this week.  The bread is a definite success.

Remember those old Thompson's English Muffin commercials where they talked about the "nooks and crannies"?  When we were kids we always said "nooks and grannies."  Did anybody else do this, or just my goofy family?

As odd as it sounds, this bread really does taste like an english muffin when toasted.  Coarse texture, holey interior (captures the melted butter just like those nooks and crannies!) and yummy flavor.  The cornmeal gives the crust a nice crunch, too.

English Muffin Toasting Bread
adapted from King Arthur Flour

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Put flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and yeast in mixing bowl and whisk to combine.  Fit mixer with paddle attachment (not dough hook).

Heat milk, water and oil in microwave until it reaches 120-130 degrees.

Pour hot milk mixture over dry ingredients and beat on high speed for 1 minute.  Dough will be very soft and sticky.

Grease 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan and dust bottom and sides with cornmeal.

Dump dough into loaf pan and level it out the best you can.  Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and let rise 45-60 minutes, or until the dough rises about 1/2" from the rim of the pan.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bake bread for 20-22 minutes, or until golden brown and internal temperature reaches 190 degrees.

Cool in pan 5 minutes, then remove bread to wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Week 1 of Cooking Class

January 24, 2011 13:53 by Suzy

I started my cooking class last week (Tuesday), and you'd think I would have recipes galore to share on my blog, wouldn't you?  JD also thought he was getting home-cooked meals all this week.  Yeah well, neither one of those things happened.  For whatever reason, I could not get motivated to be creative this week.  Long week at work, way too cold outside and way too dark when I got home every night.  All I wanted to do was snuggle under a blanket on the couch and watch trashy TV.  So I did.  Nearly every night.  And all day Saturday.

Regardless, the class was awesome...great teacher, good format, enthusiastic fellow students, and I know I'm going to love each and every Tuesday for the next five months.  We covered knife skills and we learned how to make stocks (chicken stock, fish stock, veal stock).  I'm hoping to have some good blog posts later this week, with stuff learned from my class as well as some other goodies.

In the meantime, I thought everyone would get a kick out of what I made in the kitchen this week...


And these:

And these:

Then we wanted some queso dip, so we made that...

And that was my week.  I did make some cookies yesterday for the football party, as well as margaritas, but that's it.  To paraphrase Jules from Pulp Fiction, that's some real gourmet shit, don't you think?

Pretzel-Wrapped Sausage Bites

January 16, 2011 15:48 by Suzy

I am still recovering from the huge disappointment yesterday...stupid Steelers beat my Ravens.  Such a letdown.

However, there is still a lot of great football ahead (I hope the Patriots kick some Steeler ass next week!) so you'll need some good munchie this one.  This is a nice change to the typical pigs-in-blankets...with chewy pretzel dough instead of flaky biscuits.  Serve with your choice of dipping sauce...I made some simple honey mustard, but barbecue sauce or even ranch dressing would be equally good.  Enjoy!

Pretzel-Wrapped Sausage Bites
adapted from Foodie With Family

4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 quarts water
2 tablespoons baking soda
2 14-ounce packages cocktail smoked sausages (Lil' Smokies)
1 egg white, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
melted butter

Combine flour, sugar, milk, 1/2 cup water, salt and yeast in mixer fitted with dough hook.  Mix on low for 6 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic (but still a bit sticky).  Place dough in greased bowl,, cover with a damp towel, and let rise in a warm place for 35 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Line sheet pans with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray.

Cut off a ping pong ball sized piece of dough (keep the rest covered so it doesn't dry out) and roll into a cord 1/4-1/2 inch in diameter.  Wrap cord around a sausage, cut off excess, and pinch to seal.  Place on parchment-lined sheet pans.  Let rise, uncovered for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees and bring 2 quarts water to a boil.

Add baking soda to the boiling water.  Carefully lower some of the wrapped sausages into the boiling water.  After about 45 seconds (the dough will get puffy), remove with a slotted spoon and return to parchment-lined pans.  Brush each sausage bite with the beaten egg white, and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

Bake for 16 minutes, or until glossy and golden brown.  Brush each sausage bite with melted butter and serve.

Suzy's Favorite Cocktail

January 8, 2011 19:41 by Suzy

I was not one for parties in high school or college.  I don't think I was a complete geek, but I was definitely a bit uptight and on the square side.  No one even offered me a cigarette, for God's sake.  And that continued until I was in my late 20's.

A few years after JD and I got together, we were out with friends at some cheesy chain restaurant (Applebee's or Bennigan's, I think) and I was feeling frisky, so I wondered aloud what kind of drink I should try.  JD suggested a Crown & 7.  And that was it.  Like my first kiss from JD, I knew this was the one.  And I've never looked back.

It's also fun to order in a bar because most bartenders are surprised that a little girl like me would request such a "man's drink" and not a white wine spritzer or a watered-down Cosmo.

Here's how to make this delicious magical concoction...

Fill your glass with ice.  Lots of ice.

Pour in enough Crown Royal to come up about 1/3 of the way.  (1/4 of the way if you are a wuss.)

Fill the glass with 7-Up.  Not Sprite.  7-Up is better.  Less sweet, more bubbles.

Stir gently.  Garnish with a lime wedge if you are feeling fancy and you have one handy.


Sparkling Grapes

January 2, 2011 16:49 by Suzy

I hope you had a safe and fun New Year's Eve...JD and I spent the evening with good friends and lots of yummy (and supposedly lucky) food.  These were on the menu and were so good.  The only problem is we had to hide them until the kids went to bed.  They look so innocent, but they hide a tasty secret.  If you happen to have some Champagne left over (or if you don't want to stop the celebrating), you should try these!

Champagne-Marinated Grapes
adapted from Cocktail Parties, Straight Up!

2 pounds red and/or green seedless grapes
1 bottle Champagne or other dry sparkling wine (I used Prosecco)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons superfine sugar

Rinse grapes well under running water.  Cut bunches into clusters of 3-5 grapes each.

Pour Champagne into large bowl with a tight-fitting lid.  Add 1/4 cup sugar and stir gently to dissolve.  Add the grapes and lemon zest.  Cover and chill overnight.

Drain grapes and gently blot dry with a paper towel.  Sprinkle with superfine sugar, and arrange in serving bowl or platter.