Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Hearty Beef Barley Soup

It is still very cold in these parts, and snowed again a little bit yesterday.  When it's cold outside I hibernate inside where it's warm and cozy.  So on that note, it was a great day to make a pot of soup and I got to work in my kitchen.  My kitchen is my favorite place to be, it's my fun, creative play space! 
I had all of the ingredients for my soup in my pantry, I keep everything stocked up at home.  There is one thing that bothers me most when I'm cooking, if I need an ingredient, I don't have it, and I have to stop what I'm doing and run to the store and get it.  Puts a damper on cooking.
I do have to say my soup did turn out fabulous! I served it up with a crusty sourdough bread. The hubby was in love all over again and enjoyed every last spoonful of my tasty winter meal.
Recipe Below.

A few simple ingredients for a wonderful hearty soup.
I dusted my beef with a little flour to thicken the soup a bit.
Brown the meat in olive oil.
Looking good.
Beef broth in along with my veggies.
Thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper gives a special flavor to my soup.
Medium grain barley. 
No pre-cook on the barley, just drop it in the soup and let it cook in there.
And there it is, the tastiest bowl of winter soup I have had in a long time.  It's filling, warms you and the belly and is also good for you, what more could you ask for.  ENJOY!

Hearty Beef Barley Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 lbs beef cubes, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 32 oz. containers beef broth, can also use stock, I use low salt
2 large carrots, diced
2 large stalks celery, diced
1/2 large onion, diced
1 small can sliced mushrooms, drained, can use fresh if you like
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons thyme
3 large bay leaves
2/3 cup barley

Heat oil over medium high heat in a large Dutch oven.  In a resealable bag add the beef, flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Shake the bag until all the meat is coated.  Add meat to the heated oil in the Dutch oven.  Brown the meat until all sides are seared.  Add the beef broth, carrots, celery, onion, mushrooms, garlic, thyme and bay leaves.  Cover and simmer on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Stir in the barley and cook for another 30 minutes until the barley is tender.  Serve with a crusty bread. 


Monday, March 8, 2021

Spinach Apple Cranberry Salad for 2

I made myself a list of dinners to make to keep our meals less boring around here.  I get tired of the same old dinners all the time and thought why not do things a little different, break up the monotony.  This past year with the quarantine going on, social distancing, locked in and restaurants being closed, we eat all of our meals at home now and don't have the variety that restaurants have to offer.  I use to enjoy taking a night off of cooking dinner and going out to eat with the hubby on a Friday or Saturday night.  That doesn't happen now, but hopefully we can get back to that soon.

  Cooking all your meals at home takes a lot of creativity so it doesn't get boring.  I have never been the cook that has to have a pasta meal on Sunday, just because it's Sunday.  I like variety, it is the spice of life in my world.  I let my taste buds guide me to what I will make for dinner when I get up in the morning.  I go to my freezer pull out what I want and plan what sides, if any, I'll prepare to go with my meal. I'm lucky in the sense that my hubby will eat anything I put in front of him, he's good that way, hahahaha! Once, we had breakfast for dinner, he thought that was exotic.

Last night I made this Spinach Salad with Apples, Cranberries, Grilled Chicken and Bacon for dinner.  It was easy, and what I thought would be good in it I had in the fridge or pantry.  I put it together in just a few minutes and it was not only filling it was very tasty.
Recipe Below.
I started layering all my ingredients in a bowl.  I tossed in a little spring mix with my spinach, I'm crazy that way.
Cranberries, candied walnuts and a fresh Gala apple.
I used this Chicken as a shortcut, just heated it up in a frying pan.
One bag was good for two nice sized salads.
Add the chicken and feta cheese, because feta is always good.
And bacon, because that too always makes everything better.  I crisp this up in the microwave for added crunch.
Add the chicken.
And I used this gem of a dressing I found at Shady Maple an Amish grocery store.  You could probably make your own, although I don't have the amounts of the ingredients, you would have to use your taste as your judgement.  The ingredients are - apple cider vinegar, sugar, water, crushed red pepper, apple sauce, cinnamon, salt and apple juice.  Shake in a bottle or whisk it all together, season to your taste. Feel free to use any of your favorite dressings, a honey mustard or balsamic vinaigrette is good with it too.  
My salad topped with dressing and plain crispy wontons.  It was delicious!

Spinach Apple Cranberry Salad for 2 
1 9 oz. bag Perdue short cuts chicken strips
1 small bag fresh spinach
1 small box spring mix greens
1 large Gala apple
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup glazed walnuts - or nut of your choice
1 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup bacon crumbles- crisp up in the microwave
Salad Dressing of your choice
1 cup crispy tortilla strips

In a frying pan over medium heat, warm up the chicken strips and break them into smaller pieces as they heat. Set aside.

Divide the spinach between two large bowls.  Toss some spring mix with the spinach in each bowl.  Cut the apple in half and core it, cut into chunks and toss with the lemon juice.  Divide the apple, cranberries, walnuts, chicken, feta cheese and bacon between the two bowls.  Pour on the dressing and top with the crispy tortillas. Enjoy!


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Sprouted Wheat Loaves - Organic/Vegan

Back in the kitchen again after a few days off and threw myself into perfecting organic/vegan bread baking.  When you're not used to baking this kind of bread sometimes its hard to master.  Taking a regular bread recipe and changing it, to use not so much organic ingredients but vegan ingredients, can be a challenge in itself if you are not used to baking this way.  A lot of recipes I have call for milk in them, this one thankfully did not.  Using a vegan milk such as soy, coconut or almond can change the way the bread bakes.  It may not be a high loaf, sometimes it caves in the middle, or it may become to dense and doughy, like I said, a challenge.  

I found this old recipe I had tucked away for a few years, I switched out all the regular ingredients and used organic and/or vegan.  The secret to it's height, I added a dough conditioner/improver to the mix that I found on the King Arthur Baking website that's made from soy.  It worked wonderfully, my loaves had a great rise to them and were very light. No dense heavy bread this time, which is the way we like them around here, and great for sandwich making and toasting. 

Recipe Below.

Perfect high rise
Two lovely loaves
Great shape for sammies!
Nice and brown, the way bread should be.
Perfect inside and out.

Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat Bread

2 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast (I used Red Star)
1/3 cup organic honey
2 Cups Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour (I used One Degree)
1 teaspoon of table salt
1/3 cup canola oil
5 Cups Organic all-purpose flour (I used Bob's Red Mill Organic Unbleached White Flour)
7 teaspoons whole grain bread improver (I used KAB)

In the bowl of a mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Add the honey and stir until dissolved. Whisk the whole wheat flour together with the salt.  Add to the mixer bowl along with oil.  Attach your dough hook and mix on medium speed until all is combined.  Whisk together the all-purpose flour and the improver.  With mixer on medium speed, gradually add the white flour mix until all is combined, scrape bowl as you go along. Mix until a rough dough ball forms. 

Turn the dough out on to a lightly flour surface and knead for 10 minutes.  When the dough is smooth and somewhat elastic, form into a smooth ball with seams tucked under, place in a well oiled bowl, turning to coat it on all sides.  Place the ball smooth side up seam side down and cover with a damp towel.  Let it rise in a warm place until double in size, about 45-60 minutes.
I put mine in my oven with just the oven light on- DO NOT TURN YOUR OVEN ON!

Punch the dough down, shape it into 2 even loaves (I weighed mine) and place in two well greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, lightly cover with plastic wrap. Allow them to rise until the dough is 1 to 1 1/2 inches above the rim of the pans.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.  Remember all ovens are different temperature wise.  The loaves should have an internal temperature of  190 degrees when fully baked.  Remove pans from oven.  Let the loaves rest in the pan for 5 minutes, pop them out of the pan on to a baking rack and turn top side up.  Cool completely.  Makes 2 loaves.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Be My Valentine!

I made some sweet treats for Valentine's Day, cookies and cake pops.  These were for my grand kids,
  the dinosaurs were for my grandson.
 LOVE them all to the moon and back!
Lots of hearts, lots of love.
With a T-Rex and Stegosaurus for some ROARS!
Packaged up for my lovies!
The cake pops were easy to make and decorate.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Delicious Sourdough Biscuits

 I've gotten myself into a lot of bread baking lately and I really enjoy it.  It's relaxing to me, just me in the kitchen all by myself  and I'm lovin' it!  It all kind of started with figuring out organic vegan bread recipes for my son and then I moved on to regular bread baking, once I mastered the vegan side of bread baking. My sister even jumped on the wagon of homemade bread baking because she needed gluten free breads. I am now making my own homemade split top hot dog buns, because the hubby has a love for them.  
Today I made a comfort meal for dinner of meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy and corn for dinner and thought hmmmm..... biscuits would be good with our meal, so into the kitchen I went and got to work.  I made my biscuits from a sourdough starter discard, I always have a crock of that in the fridge. You have to feed the sourdough starter and that requires you to discard some of the dough every time you have to feed it.  I don't throw it out, it's still useful, so I save it in a small crock and make breads, pancakes, waffles, biscuits and rolls with it.  There are a lot of recipes out there for it's use, these are a few of the things that I use it for.  I have to say these biscuits turned out great!  They have a crispy buttery outside texture and are soft and fluffy inside. Just a few ingredients and one bowl to make them, no mixer involved.  I made mine rather large, next time I think I'll make them smaller.  I slathered butter all over the top when we ate them for dinner, and I think the leftovers are going to be great for breakfast with some butter and jam spread on them. I can't wait until morning to have those!
Recipe Below.
Mixin' them up.  That's my crock of sourdough in the back.
Flatten out the dough with your hands, the best tool in your kitchen and cut the biscuits out.
I cut mine with a glass, my biscuit cutter was packed away with my cookie cutters.
Light and fluffy pillows of dough and if you look closely you can see the butter in the dough.
Oh my, oh my they're so good!  They would even be great made into mini strawberry (or any other fruit) shortcakes and some homemade whipped cream or a breakfast sandwich too, the possibilities are endless. 

Sourdough Biscuits
1 cup of flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick of cold butter, cut into pieces
1 cup sourdough starter discard

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Work the butter in with a pastry blender until small crumbly balls of dough start to form.

Add the sourdough discard and mix it gently until it forms a messy dough ball.  Turn it out onto a floured surface and pat it gently into a 6 inch by 1 inch thick  round.  With a biscuit cutter, cut out 4 biscuits as close together as you can.  With the remaining dough, pat out and cut 2 more biscuits.

Place the biscuits on the baking sheet 2 inches apart.  Bake the biscuits for 20-22 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from oven and serve warm, or cool on a cooling rack then store in a plastic bag at room temperature, you can also freeze them.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Old Fashion Comfort Meal - Homemade Chicken Croquettes

I had a hankering for some old fashion food that I remember eating as a kid.  Chicken Croquettes were so good, the croquette itself was delicious alongside the puddle of mashed potatoes and gravy.  This was restaurant food usually, and you could also get the meal with gravy fries which were the best!  My mom never made these from scratch, but there was a frozen version that came with cups of gravy sold in grocery stores.  My mother did buy those and they were a great substitute for homemade.

I wasn't busy at home and decided I would try and make them myself.  If they didn't turn out right, I could just call them something else.  The flavors in them I tried to remember so I would get it right, and the technique for getting them to look like a croquette I mastered.  They were always a conical shape, although nowadays I see them as flat pancake style, THAT is not a croquette that I remember.  So here goes my version of  The Chicken Croquette. 
Recipe Below.
I used ground chicken, this worked perfect.
I cooked it up.  Then I cut up the celery and put in a small food chopper so the pieces were cut small or minced.
These ingredients I used for my chicken base.
The base, cooking up those tasty ingredients.  Kind of looks like mashed potatoes.
Fold in the cooked ground chicken and you can see it looks like the inside of the croquettes.
Mold into a conical shape. I lined mine up on a parchment covered baking sheet.
Give them an egg bath and dip in flour and then bread crumbs to get that crispy outside coat on them when you fry them.
Here they are coated in egg and flour. Then you have to dip in egg again and then the bread crumbs.
Into the deep fryer until golden brown all over.
Drain on paper towels.  Looking scrumptious!
OOOOH, now for the gravy. You have to have gravy, its for the mashed potatoes, or if you like, French fries.
Plate them up on a cloud of fluffy mashed potatoes or fries, top with that awesome gravy and dig in!
Chicken Croquettes

Ingredients for the croquette base
1 1/4 lbs of ground chicken meat (I used Perdue in the bag)
1 cup of whole milk
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 teaspoons parsley flakes, could also use fresh
1 stick of butter
1 stalk of celery, minced small
1 cup flour
oil for frying

Coating for the croquettes
1 cup of milk
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs, can use plain or seasoned

Chicken Gravy
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
2 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons parsley flakes or fresh parsley

For the croquette base:
In a medium frying pan on medium-high heat brown the ground chicken.  Chop and separate as you cook it, until there is no pink color remaining and it looks like it's minced very small.  Set aside. 

In a large pot, heat the milk and stock over medium heat.  Add the salt, pepper, and parsley. In another pot, melt butter and add the celery.  Cook until celery soft.  Add the flour and cook for three minutes. Pour the milk/stock mixture over the flour mixture and whisk until it thickens and becomes smooth. Fold in the ground chicken.

Breading the croquettes:
Mold the mixture with your hands into conical shapes and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Beat the milk and eggs together in a bowl.  In another bowl place the flour and in a third bowl place the bread crumbs.  Dip the croquettes one by one into the egg mixture, then the flour mixture.  Let them sit for a few minutes then dip in the egg mixture again then the breadcrumbs. Line back up on the baking sheet.

Frying the croquettes:
You can use a deep fryer or a large pot.  Heat oil to 350 degrees.  Place two croquettes at a time in the basket and lower into the oil.  Cook for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown on all sides and top and bottom.  Remove from basket and drain on paper towels.

Croquette Gravy:
Melt butter in a medium size saucepan over medium heat, stir in the flour, salt and pepper.  Whisk in the stock until the gravy is smooth.  Add the parsley.  Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Serve croquettes on a bed of mashed potatoes and top with gravy.