Posted by Adam | Posted in , | Posted on Sunday, November 29, 2009

And.... the Holiday season is now in FULL FORCE. I have a small Christmas tree up, greeting cards are being filled out, Pumping Iron is in the DVD player... (wait a minute).

But I love this time year. It's like a last hurrah to get together with friends, and there is something crisp and special in the air. Who doesn't love cookie exchanges, Bad Santa type exchanges, and a good snowball fight? I won't have any snow this year (for once), but I think it's going to be a really welcome change. All you need is the right state of mind :)

I decided to kick things off with one of my favorite cookies... the super awesome Gingersnap. Now, before we get rolling, there's a minor controversy here. That is...

To snap or not to snap?

Some people like chewy gingerBREAD type cookies, and others like the hard, whoops I just got crumbs on my shirt SNAPS. Which are you? Is it possible to dig both?

While one of my personal favorite cookies are called Hermit Cookies, which are chewy, I think ginger cookies should be snaps. Yup. Crusty and messy.

So after looking at a couple of recipes for cookies that tended to be too soft for my liking, I found one that looked promising. Simple, a good amount of molasses, and crumbs in the picture. We have a winner here, folks :)

Gingersnaps Recipe
Taken from The Kitchn... I like this site

Makes about 75 cookies (but I got like 50 cause I make them larger- AB)

-1 cup sugar
-3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
-1 egg
-1/3 cup molasses
-2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
-2 teaspoons baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon ground ginger
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon cloves
-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

By hand or in a mixer, combine the sugar and butter. Add the egg and mix until the egg is completely combined. Stir in the molasses.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and all the spices. Whisk these dry ingredients to make sure everything is evenly distributed, then pour it on top of the wet ingredients. Use a folding motion to gently combine the wet and dry ingredients. Continue until no more flour is visible.

Turn on the oven to 375° and refrigerate the gingersnap dough while the oven is preheating.

When the oven is hot, measure out rounded teaspoons of dough. Roll the dough between your hands to shape tablespoon balls. Position the balls about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the cookies have puffed and collapsed back on themselves.

Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Store cookies in an airtight container.

Now, I couple of notes about these cookies. First, don't overbake... but come CLOSE. The instructions talk about the cookies puffing up, and THEN sinking is soooo right. You want that. The house will smell of awesome cloves and ginger, and they will look almost black, and that's what you want. Take them out, let them cool for a minute or two, and then on the rack.

If you want kinda chewy cookies, you can eat them that day. However, if you want Snapable cookies, you need to store them and eat them over the next couple days. Don't worry, they keep super well. I was eating them for almost a week afterwards... what can I say, 50 cookies is alot :)

I hope all of your ovens are still in good working order, with the huge influx of awesome sweets being made this holiday. I'm going to be busy these next few weeks, so I want to wish you the most awesome of holiday seasons. Enjoy yourselves, and let loose this month. Come next year, you can get back on the health and diet horse :)

Feeling Saucy and Soupy


Posted by Adam | Posted in , , , | Posted on Sunday, November 22, 2009

How's the pre-Thanksgiving festivities going? Anyone into full out cookie baking mode yet? I can feel them approaching. There's Christmas music on the radio here, and the stores have been absolutely plastered with green and red for a few weeks now. I can't blame them at all though... I read awhile back that the holiday season accounts for something like 60% of retail annual sales each year. That's not having all your eggs in one basket, but def more than half of them :)

The holidays are pretty much an awesome time. I think it's a fantastic time to enjoy yourself, keep in touch with forgotten friends, and wrap up the loose ends of your life. Come January, the gloves come off, and new goals are get set in place. Think about where you want to be a year from now, and write that stuff down, so you're held to it. Sounds a little scary to be held accountable... but that's the point :)

I've been seeing butternut squash recipes alot lately. Like over here, and here, and many more others. And I don't blame you guys, I mean they are tasty, weird looking veggies. Even more interesting is the whole "squash and pasta concept". Whoever came up with that is a genius. While there's nothing wrong with tomato sauce at all (classic) I have to admit it's nice for a change. I had a problem though.

I couldn't really care less about pasta.

Ok... ok.... ok... don't leave!

You don't want to be my friend anymore? Wait I still love tomato sauce! Well, sorry but I just like other starches better. Give me sweet potatoes, or barley, or some rye bread. And I don't feel tired after eating those either. Pasta puts me in a coma after eating. Not exactly a great thing if you still have stuff to do that day.

So I wanted to try that butternut pasta thing... but without the pasta. It's been in the colder 50s here lately... so that equals soup to me.

Butternut Tomato Soup that is.

I don't really have any specific ingredient amounts or anything, so just read along and go with it. Make the soup your own if you want. It's easy as pie. Actually pie can be a pain to make, when the dough is too warm. Soup is super easy. Dump in a pot and heat. Gotta love it :)

Butternut Tomato Soup
Dr. Adam

-1 medium onion, chopped and diced pretty small
-2 ribs celery, diced

-1 tbs olive oil

-1 can diced tomatoes, use the juice too

-1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed

-3 cups chicken stock (or any stock)

-Some wine... I used white cause it was open

-Handfuls of basil and sage

-Salt and Pepper to taste

I chose to keep this really easy. Read and follow the pics.

In a large pot... add the onion, celery, and oil on medium head. Stir frequently until the veggies sweet and soften a bit. Then add the tomatoes and squash, and cook for a few minutes until some of water evaporates. About 5 minutes.

Add the stock, and wine, and cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the squash softens up a bit. If it needs longer, just let it continue to cook until it becomes more mushy.
Add the herbs, and cook again for another 5 minutes, and the kitchen will smell aromatic and great.

Turn off the heat and let cool.
When the soup is cooler, use an immersion blender and blend the soup up to the consistency you want. Leave some chunks if you'd like, or completely puree it if that's what you want. Just be careful and don't let the soup splatter on you :) Add some salt and pepper to taste.

That's it... now you have tasty awesome soup, with a nice orange red color.

Stay tuned for some more recipes this coming holiday season. It gives me an excuse to bake a little more and spring up some sweets on my friends. I think we are doing a cookie exchange soon, and I'm sure I'll have a little pressure to be number one... not that it's a competition or anything :)

Have a great rest of the weekend, and stay warm!

View and Review: Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day


Posted by Adam | Posted in , , , | Posted on Saturday, November 14, 2009

While reading recipes online are great, complete with pictures and colored fonts... sometimes nothing beats a good, hardbound book. Something you pick up, place down, accident cover with flour and cocoa smudges... ya know the usual sign of good wear and tear :)

I think its a great idea to give back every once in a while to help out those around you. Donate to a T-giving food drive, join a civic group, help strangers load groceries in there car... whatever makes you feel like you are making a difference. Help raise awareness... that's a BIG one. (That's what she said) :)

And we do exactly that with BloggerAid: Changing the Face of Famine. There are many, many people our there in less than favorable circumstances than ourselves, and it's important to acknowledge this and help out any way that we can. With the concept of View and Review, publishers have agreed to donate their books, so we can read, review, and help raise awareness of world hunger together, it's a pretty cool win-win :).

So what awesome book did I get? Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, published by Thomas Dunne Books.

Now, this book has received quite a bit of hype in the past year or so. I remember hearing about it back when I first started blogging, and I knew there was something special about it. Who doesn't like fresh bread? Nobody. Who has the time to bake bread and wait for raising times all day long? Just about nobody. So the thing I love about this book is that it fixes that. You break the bread preparation up over the course of a few days, with as little as 5 minutes being needed.

The beauty is that the bread dough stays in the fridge and raises on it's own. You can wrestle with your kids, go to work, wash the dog, take a girl out... it's ok, the bread doesn't mind. It stays for up to two weeks in the fridge... and gets better as it slowly ferments everyday! I love this for busy people like ourselves.

When it's time to bake, you take out a portion of the dough, shape it, preheat your oven, let it rest for a little over a half hour, slash it, and bake it. Done. It's so simple a neanderthal could do it. Which means I'll have it done in edible fashion to say the least :)

The book's concept is killer, but what I really enjoy are the recipes (obviously). You have standard favorites like baguettes, to whole wheat and rye peasant loaves (close to my heart, sauerkraut anyone?), to more dessert type breads like brioche and babka and panettone (good for this time of year). So I don't know what more you could want :)

And the step by step instructions are great. The authors focus on teaching you exactly what to do, and trouble shoot when things don't go perfectly as planned. While my first loaves didn't turn out stellar, I'm convinced that with a little practice and trial and error, I'll make it in no time. It's like having a teacher watch over you... without the ruler in her hand and the red pens.

The recipe I went with is the one that you ALL should start with. Its the foundation of a good bread... the almighty Boule loaf. It's ingredients are simple, and everyone will love it.

Almighty Boule
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Makes about four 1 pound loaves... can be halved and doubled, fyi

-3 cups lukewarm water (like body temp)

-1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast

-1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt

-6 1/2 cups unbleached, AP flour

I'm going to give you my version of the quick directions. If you'd like to know more, you can visit Zoe's Awesome Website, or of course buy the book :)

In a large 5 quart container, add the water, salt and yeast. Stir a little, it doesn't have to dissolve. Add the flour all at once, and stir with a big wooden spoon, until it is all incorporated. You may want to use your hands once it gets started, just to make sure the mixture turns into a dough and stays together. Don't worry if it's not perfect, and don't knead. The dough will be pretty sticky and wet, but that's fine... remember it's going to sit in the fridge for awhile.

Cover it with a lid that's not airtight, and let it rise. I would let it rise overnight...

Relax and go to sleep dreaming of bread :)

When you're ready to bake, grab a piece of dough the size of a grapefruit and cut it off with a flour dusted, sharp knife. With your floured hands, stretch the dough out like a saucer, and fold it out underneath itself, gathering the ends together.

Place this dough on a floured cutting board, or on a cookie sheet if you don't have a baking stone.
Let it rest for 20 minutes... go do something fun.

Preheat your oven to 450* and place the rack on the center or close to the bottom, place your broiler tray or some oven proof vessel on a rack in the top of the oven. If you have a baking stone, place it on that middle rack.
Let the dough rest for another 20 minutes, and it should have risen a little. Don't worry if it didn't too much, it will make up for it in the oven.

Dust and slash your knife, and make a cris cross or line patterns on the top of the loaf.
Even if you oven isn't up to temperature, take the dough and place it on your baking stone with a pizza peel, or place your cookie sheet with rested dough in the oven. Pour one cup of water in the broiler tray/oven proof container and close the door to trap the steam. 30 or so minutes later, you'll have brown crisp crusted dough... TA DA :)

Look at that crust. This is what bread is supposed to be. If you like that WonderStuff... well I don't know what to tell you :) Thanks Jeff and Zoe for showing us that bread can be done right, and done in time :)

While this review has been long overdue, I want to thank Giz and Val for being patient with me, and allowing me the fantastic opportunity to view and re-view this book. I am a better baker because of this, and I had a blast learning something new. I plan on making many of the loaves in this book, and feeding my hungry family, friends, and neighbors. Nothing says friendship like a good loaf of bread :)

Pumpkin Lite


Posted by Adam | Posted in , | Posted on Wednesday, November 04, 2009

How was everyone's Halloween? From the looks of it, everyone had a great time. I think whether you love Halloween or think it's a totally commercial lame holiday, you have to agree on two things:
  • The decorations are probably the most fun out of any other holiday
  • 30-50% off Halloween candy starting November 1st is pretty sweet
While it's not the most masculine trait I have, my family always instilled guerrilla type shopping skills after holidays. I'm not talking like ducking and rolling around through the aisles, (been there) but more like secret stealth money saving. Nothing says you can't use Halloween stuff like cups and kitchen stuff year round. So what if a spatula is orange? Orange is cool.

So to round out the Orange theme, I have yet another pumpkin recipe... because what are you supposed to do with half a can of pumpkin in the fridge anyways? I guess I COULD eat it out of the can... I do eat just about anything (what can I say, protein powder enables you do eat just about anything taste wise)

So, about a year ago... did I just say that? A year? Wow.

So about a year ago I did an angel food cake recipe. I really dig angel food cake. It has literally no fat, some protein, and... a ton of sugar. Oh well, 2 outta 3 ain't bad. But I like it because angel food cake tastes like nothing else. The texture is soft yet chewy, with this sticky almost tang thing going on. It's like cotton candy in cake form. I dunno it's just a neat thing.

So what if we just add some pumpkin and spices to it? That'll work.

I took the old recipe I just listed above, and added some spices and the rest of the canned pumpkin. It was poured into the pan, flipped, and let to cool. Just keep in mind that because pumpkin is a wet ingredient, you might have to up the baking time a bit. Soggy angelfood cake does not make fun and delicious eats. Its like the equivalent of wearing wet socks all day. Squidgy and weird.

But when it turns out perfect.... it's really awesome :)

So here's the recipe, cut, pasted, and changed :)

Cranberry Orange Angel Food Cake Recipe by Dr. Adam

-1 cup cake flour
-1 1/2 cups of sugar
-12 egg whites
-1 tsp cream of tartar
-1/4 tsp salt -1 tsp vanilla
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 tsp cloves
-1/2 tsp nutmeg
-Half a small can of pumpkin puree

Super easy recipe. Preheat your oven to 350*. Set your rack to the bottom if you are using an angel food cake pan, or middle if you are using something else.

In a large, metal or glass bowl (make sure it's clean, no grease or grime), whip the egg whites with an electric mixer. Don't use your arms... they will probably fall off. Whip the whites on medium speed for a bit, and mix in the cream of tartar and salt. Take the speed up a notch, and as it comes together, add a little of the sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time. Keep adding sugar as the whites increase in volume, and all of the sugar has been used. You want some soft to semi firm peaks forming.

Fold in the flour, gently, and return to beating the mixture so it's well incorporated. Once the flour is in, add the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Continue to mix on medium, until the colors of the batter turn into a orange brown (the spices are mixed in well then). Turn off the machine and fold in the pumpkin with a spatula, being careful not to over mix the batter or get it all over the counter.

Pour the batter into the angel food pan, making sure it's very clean of grease and dirt, and smooth over evenly. Place the pan into the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown, and dry to the touch.Immediately take the pan out of the oven and flip it over, so the dome cylinder thing in the pan is supporting the pan and cake. Let it cool like this until it's cool. Run a knife around the edge, and take it carefully out. Serve it up.

I may not be the first cat to think of this cake, but it's my first time eating it. I was happy with the results, and so were some of the girls at the Halloween party. What can I say, I get a couple of points on the scoreboard here and there :P

Happy November, and I hope everyone is staying warm and safe. I'll be out of town this weekend and in Florida for a seminar, but I'll catch up with you when I get back. And speaking of last years recipe, is anyone else excited for cranberries? Fall fruit is great :)

Random thing.... Bon Jovi is on TV right now celebrating 25 years. To be cool and do something you like for 25 years is remarkable. Good for them :)