Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I like eating real foods. The more I move beyond my own reasons (it's cheap and tastes better) the more I'm finding it's also healthier than what's become the norm for the American diet.

I read Nourishing Traditions recently. Now I'm the sort of person who reads a cookbook like a novel, but this was a book that anyone could read for pleasure. Half of each page was commentary. I didn't check out references, but even if it was all bunk (which it wasn't), it was good bunk.

I was inspired. INSPIRED I say! So I made buttermilk. First I started with store bought cultured butter milk and the 1% milk we always have around. (We have it around because a lovely young man drives up to my house once a week and leaves some at my front door. How cool is that?) It worked. !!! Then I used the buttermilk I made to make - more buttermilk. That worked too! Man this is so exciting. !!! I got wild and crazy and asked the young man to leave a quart of cream and I made buttermilk with that.

Now I have died and gone to heaven. The cream turned into the absolutely best sour cream ever. Really. (Ask my husband, I let him have some. That's how much I love him.) I put a cup of my homemade sour cream in a jar and put it in the fridge to use with blueberries and pancakes. I left the rest out to finish curdling to see if I could make cheese.

Maybe this weekend I'll get wild and crazy and make my own yogurt.

I did ask the lovely young man to leave me a half gallon of whole milk this week.

Notes and Modifications:

I have felt perfectly justified in buying the cheapest cream cheese I could find, since I never noticed a difference in the quality of cream cheese.

Now I know better. I finished making cream cheese last night. The cream cheese I made by adding cultured buttermilk to cream (1:3 ratio) is amazingly delicious. Cost wise it works out about the same as what I'd pay at the store, so while this is a huge improvement on quality, it isn't a cost savings.

The cream cheese I made using purchased yogurt was as good as store bought, but not better. However, it was actually cheaper than store bought yogurt. I wonder if homemade yogurt works as well and if I'll notice a taste difference?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fagosa Bread

Here's another recipe from the Italian side of my family. This recipe came from an uncle via a cousin. (Although I can't vouch for how traditional it is. What the heck does Fagosa mean?)

This is good for an appetizer or a hostess gift. It looks like a high rising loaded foccacia bread.

Fagosa Bread

1 Tbs yeast in 1/2 cup warm water

1 egg
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup oil (preferably olive oil)
1 cup milk
3-4 cups flour

Let rise for 1 1/2 hr

Mix in yummy stuff - (here are some ideas, but don't limit yourself!)
cheese (swiss, mozzarella, cheddar, ?)
sliced onions
sliced mushrooms
sliced olives
sliced bell peppers
roasted bell peppers
dried tomatoes

Let rise 1/2 hr

Cover with cheese and bake at 375F for ~30 min.

Notes and modifications:

I made the base dough in the bread machine using 100% whole white wheat (+1 Tbs gluten/cup flour). When it was done rising I kneaded in olives, onions, peppers and sun-dried tomatoes by hand, topping it with mozzarella cheese and more sliced onions. It was pretty good, but I only got one slice before it was gone, so I'll have to make it again to be sure. Maybe next time I'll do cheddar, broccoli, onions, and ham.

When my cousin makes this she makes it into rolls, then freezes what doesn't make it through the first day - instant breakfast or lunch roll, brilliant!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Stir Fry Pad Thai (sorta)

Friday night we had Steve's Chicken Marsala from the freezer, served over whole wheat thin spaghetti, with asparagus and salad on the side. The box of spaghetti said 7 servings. Since we had a guest I cooked the whole package of spaghetti. 5+1=6=~7, so I figured cooking the whole thing made sense. (No risk letting anyone go hungry.) I should have known better. From personal experience I know that half a box is enough for our family of 5, and our young guest doesn't seem to have come into his adolescent appetite yet. (I wonder who actually eats the serving size on the side of the box?) I ended up with a large tub of cooked plain spaghetti. Ugh.

I'm a bit of a tightwad. Which is strange to admit since I'll spend more to get organic and local when I can. I might be pound foolish, but at least I'm penny wise, and I hate to waste food. So here's what I did at 4:30pm yesterday when I had the dreaded experience of hungry children, and just dribs and drabs of leftovers in the fridge.

Stir Fry Pad Thai

(fed family of 5 w/ leftovers for 2 hungry people)

Chopped Veggies - about large dinner plate heaped with mixed veggies
Here's what I had on hand:
1 sliced onion
2 stems of broccoli, pealed and sliced
1 handful of broccoli florets
~1/2 cup sliced eggplant
1/2 cup left over asparagus
1/4 sliced red pepper
1 carrot pealed and cut into thin strips3 cloves of garlic pealed and pressed

~1/2 lb sliced cooked meat - I had 1 left over grilled chicken breast

1 quart cold cooked spaghetti
2 eggs, beaten

cooking oil (I used grapeseed oil)
rice vinegar
toasted sesame oil
Thai Kitchen Pad Thai sauce (~4 - 6 Tablespoons)
soy sauce

There's a trick to cooking with a wok, and that's not to overload it. So for our family of 5 I divided and cooked this in two batches. Cooking in batches also has the advantage of allowing you to spice one batch more or less than the other. That can be helpful if some in the family prefer milder food.

Here's the fully loaded wok just after I put in the meat and before I add the sauce and egg. If it gets too full you're steaming the food, not stir frying it.Heat wok on stove on high. Stir fry the raw veggies in the cooking oil in the wok. As they get close to done splash some rice vinegar and about 1 teaspoon of sesame oil in. Toss on top any pre-cooked left over veggies, the cooked pasta, sliced meat, pad thai sauce, and a few shakes of the soy sauce. Stir. Pour the egg onto the side of the wok (so it cooks a bit before it touches the other stuff) and stir again. Taste test and add sauce if it seems like it needs it. Serve it up hot!

Now, do it all over again with the next batch. Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the brief quiet while the children eat.

Notes and modifications:

You can use any veggies you like. I highly recommend always having the sliced onions and garlic, either broccoli or cabbage, and something orange or red for color, but add whatever you have. Don't be afraid to mix in left over cooked veggies too.

I've also used soba noodles or rice noodles as designated in official recipes, but it's nice to know that you can use left over pasta too.

If you don't have noodles use a little less sauce and serve over rice.

If I'm out of pad thai sauce I make up a sauce. Try; teriyaki sauce, make your own teriyaki w/ soy sauce and brown sugar or maple syrup, or try peanut butter mixed with soy sauce and a little honey. Get creative with what you have on hand, a little salty, a little sweet, taste as you go and it'll probably be fine.

WRITE DOWN anything that turned out particularly well. My husbandgets pretty frustrated with my inability to repeat some meals. This one's for you sweet heart!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

PaPa's Bread

When I was a little girl, for the 3 yrs my parents were married for the second time, I got to spend some time with the Italian side of my family. Those times were great fun, and great eating. I hope to share with you some of the food I discovered through that side of the family.

This recipe is from my Italian great-grandfather. It's wonderfully crisp and chewy. It can be made into rolls, or used for pizza dough. Thanks to my lovely cousin for this recipe.

PaPa's Bread

6-7 cups unbleached white flour
1 pk quick dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 Tbs salt
1 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls sugar

Put yeast in water wait ~1min
Put in flour, salt, sugar and oil
Using bread hook mix on low for 15 min (or by hand until you're exhausted)
Let rise 1 1/2 hr.
Cut into rolls, or roll out for pizza dough
Let rise 30 min
Bake @ 375F 15 min.

Notes and modifications:

I have successfully halved this and made it with the dough cycle of the bread machine. For half a recipe, 1/2 package of yeast=1 1/8 tsp yeast.

I have made this with 100% whole white wheat instead of refined unbleached white flour. Using 100% whole white wheat makes a very heavy roll, but a fine pizza crust.

For healthier rolls try mixing in half whole white wheat. It's a decent compromise between amazing and healthy. Whole white wheat needs a little extra gluten, for every 1 cup of whole white wheat add 1 Tbs gluten. Remember that whole wheat can benefit from a little extra time to rise.

To make it as good as "PaPa", use the unbleached white flour, and eat healthy another day.