We Interrupt Thanksgiving Madness…

for a brief blog post. First, I want to thank everyone who reads here. I’m really grateful for the people who are interested enough in me and my little corner of the world to keep coming back even when I’m not updating nearly enough.

Second, I made a comment on Twitter and Facebook about Julekaga and the fact that it was rising/baking. People wanted to know what it is, and I figured a quick recipe is in order. Not that it is a quick recipe, well it is sort of, depends on whether you’re going to take the short cuts or not (Mom, forgive me for the shortcuts, but I know what I’m doing, I promise). Also, my mother only makes this for Christmas. I think she’s nuts (in the most endearing, heartwarming way, of course). I make it for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

First, the disclaimer: the original recipe for this came out of some obscure cookbook on my mother’s cookbook shelf (my personal copy is handwritten on the back of two phone message slips stapled together). I do not know which one and I’ve converted it to a bread machine recipe anyway. Second: I’m going to run through this twice, once for those who have bread machines and then the second, more complex version for those who don’t. You can guess which crowd I’m a part of (you need one that can make 2 lbs of dough, just saying).

Put these ingredients in the bread machine pan in the order listed:

1/2 cup softened butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup scalded milk, cooled to room temp (1min 30sec in the microwave will do it)
5 cups of AP flour (I use unbleached; don’t use whole wheat, it will make a brick)
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon cardamom
2 1/2 teaspoons of bread machine yeast

Set your bread machine for sweet bread, 2 lb loaf, with mix-ins. At the mix-in beep add:

1/4 cup diced, candied citron (I actually use 4 times that much because I like it)
1/4 cup raisins (only if you like that sort of thing, which I totally do not)

When it hits the last knead, stop the machine, pull the dough out, split it into two balls and shape into round loaves. Put them on a baking pan and let rise another 30 minutes (in our house that usually ends up being 60 minutes because it’s cool here with the AC and all). Bake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes and there it is.

Now, if you’re bread machine challenged a few things change:

1 pkg of yeast
1/4 cup warm water

Soften yeast.

Change the milk to 1 cup, scalded.

Add sugar, salt, cardamom, and milk together, cool to lukewarm. Add two cups of flour to that mixture and beat well. Add the yeast, egg, and fruit to that mixture and stir it all together. Add enough flour to make a soft dough (usually another 2 1/2 to 3 cups). Take it out of the bowl and knead on a floured surface until smooth and elastic. Put it in a greased bowl. Turn once. Let rise until double (2 to 2 1/2 hours). Punch it down. Form two balls. Shape the balls into loaves. Let rise until double again (about 1/2 hour-ish). Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.

This is what it looks like when you’re finished:

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GTT: $10 Dinner Twofer (plus 1)

Okay, so once upon a time, P and I were young and broke, with no kids. Now, we’re older, less broke, and have two kids. Once upon a time, we survived on a food budget of $25 A WEEK. Yeah, we don’t do that anymore. But cheap and easy are my favorite things to do, so l have a top three favorites that all come in under $10, I think. Now, one of these presupposes that you have flour & yeast in your pantry, though even adding those to the bill won’t make it impossible. Or, you know, but a pizza dough ball, that too would keep it under $10.

Option 1: Pasta with Special Sauce

1 box of spaghetti (I’ve used angel hair, fettuccine, and linguine with equal success, but a short pasta struggles here).
1 jar of spaghetti sauce (I use whatever is on sale, seriously).
Garlic powder
1 onion (a real one) (slice in half; cut one half into strips or half rings; save other half)
4 to 5 strips of bacon
hot sauce (for year’s it was Tabasco and only Tabasco, these days I like Frank’s Red Hot)

Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions.

Cook the bacon in a pan. Remove when cooked to your preferred level of doneness. Remove from pan. Drain off some, but not all of the bacon grease.

Put onion into the bacon grease and cook until desired level of doneness is achieved. Add spaghetti sauce and garlic powder. Add hot sauce to taste.

Mix cooked pasta into sauce. You can either crumble the bacon at this point and mix it in, or as P prefers crumble your bacon over individual servings.

Option 2: Barbeque Bacon Pizza

Flour
Yeast
Salt
water
(or a dough ball if you have the cash)
Barbeque sauce
Mexican 4 cheese blend (the big package)
1/2 onion
4 to 5 strips of bacon

Make a pizza crust or get your dough ball out. I go with dough balls. I figure you have your own recipe for dough, so I’m not going to give you that part.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Press out your dough on a pizza pan (or if you’re fancy a pizza stone). Cook on both sides until golden brown spots are showing up.

Cook bacon. Drain off most of the bacon grease. Once cooled crumble bacon.

Chop onion. Cook in remaining bacon grease.

Spread barbeque sauce over the crust to desired level of thickness. I like a significant amount of barbeque sauce.

Sprinkle some cheese over the sauce (about a 1/2 cup). Sprinkle crumbled bacon over the cheese. Spread onions over bacon. Cover with remaining cheese.

Put in oven and cook until cheese is slightly golden and bubbly.

As an aside, both of these recipes work with turkey bacon or with vegetarian bacon. You’ll never know the difference :).

Option 3: 11 cent soup

1 potato
1 cup rice
1 onion
1 can chicken broth
olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced (don’t sub powdered)

Peel and chop the potato. Chop the onion. Put onion and olive oil in a soup pan and cook until onion is translucent; and garlic, cook til golden. Add potato and cook in the oil for a couple of minutes. Add rice and chicken broth. Add water. Cook until the potatoes are done. Add water as necessary (or more chicken broth if you have it).

This is a take off on Dom Deluise’s Potato-Rice Soup that P and I called 11 cent soup because it was really that cheap.

So, there are my solutions. You can see other solutions at Girl Talk Thursdays. There are a lot of clever women out there, go meet a few :).

Edited to add: Crap. I left the clove of garlic out of the 11 cent soup. It’d be good without, but it’s better with. Really, it is. It’s been added in now.

WFMW: Making My Own Hot Chocolate

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Okay, so I know everyone has their own way of dealing with hot chocolate. There’s the packets in the grocery store. You can make your own mix with powdered milk and just add hot water. For years, this is what we did, until we discovered, Penzey’s Hot Chocolate Mix. But then, we ran out last winter and I didn’t get around to ordering some more before the cold spells hit. So, I hunted around and found a recipe in Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys that really worked for me . . . except her proportions were small and it has to be mixed every time you want to use it.

Seriously, I have better things to do with my time, so I figured out, first how to tweak her proportions so I could make a batch ever few weeks or so, and also how I could make it more like the kinds of things that I love. So what I came up with is this:

Bensdorp Dutch Process Cocoa from King Arthur Flour
Granulated sugar of choice (Publix house brand works for me)

This is the base. I use a three cup Gladware container with a screw on top for storage.

I measure in equal amounts of cocoa powder and sugar. In this case, 1 cup and 1 cup, but you can do as much or as little as you want and use as big of a container as you want, too.

You can stop here, put the lid on and shake it up until thoroughly mixed and you’ll have a wonderful hot chocolate mix.

Or you can add something. Quinn suggests cinnamon, which I admit is wonderful. We use Penzey’s Ceylon Cinnamon. But you can also add cayenne pepper or cardamom or nutmeg or all-space or ginger. Really, any combination that you love in chocolate will likely work in hot chocolate. I make a much smaller container with my experiments. She suggests a pinch in her little proportions, but I’ve found that for large batches significantly more is necessary. However, that’s a trial and error thing. I think I’m using about 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon and a 1/2 tsp. of cayenne pepper.

When you want a cup of hot chocolate, all you have to do is put milk in a mug. Heat it up in the microwave, and then stir in a spoonful or so of the mix (clearly the more you add, the more chocolaty the hot chocolate), add marshmallows, whipping cream, or a biscotti and you’re ready for a wonderful, wonderful snack.

And that’s what works for me. Now, check out some more works for me tips at Kristen’s.

Menu Planning for the Time Challenged

I don’t know how anyone else’s household runs, but mine is on equal parts planning and chaos. P and I are time challenged at the best of times and down right run off our feet at the worst. The one chore that has caused the most difficulties over fifteen years of marriage is meal planning/cooking. P tends to be the one to cook dinner. I know, I’m home all day and it should be me, but for whatever reasons we fell into this pattern years ago and have never shifted out of it. At any rate, menu planning has always meant hours sitting with cookbooks, the weekly grocery circulars, and pounds of attitude to figure out what we might want to eat, what we can afford to eat, and what we have recipes for that won’t take all day.

We’ve tried menu planning services before and have not been happy with them. Most have a set five day menu that you can’t customize or make adjustments to. But the “new kid” on the block has changed that and we are converts. This amazing “new kid” is Relish!. They can also be found on Twitter: @relishrelish.

People who know P know that he is a skeptic’s skeptic. To convince him to give this a try took every ounce of persuasive muscle I have plus Babytoolkit’s review (one of the only bloggers he trusts) to convince him to try a three month subscription.

Obviously, we started this experiment with low expectations and it took me a bit to sort out how the system works and how to make it work best for us, but we did and we love it. To the point that, P asked for a year’s subscription to the service for his birthday, which he received.

What do we like?

The weekly menu comes out on Thursday, the same day as the grocery circulars for our preferred grocery store. P likes to do the shopping on Friday, so this coordinates well with his schedule.

The menu has fifteen options on it. There are usually a few chicken, a few beef, a couple of pork and seafood, as well as several vegetarian options. They also have a dessert of the week. So far, we’ve been able to find menu options that appeal to us every week.

The recipes are easy to follow. This is a huge thing with P. He gets very irritated with certain cookbook authors who call for ingredients and then forget to include them in the actual recipe. The instructions are logical and he can follow them without requiring interpretation.

The cooking times are mostly accurate. I’ve found them to be completely accurate. Phil is a slower cook, so he needs to add time to the prep time estimates, but otherwise he finds them to be accurate, which is another big thing with him.

The recipes do not require every pot in the kitchen or hours of our time. A lot of the time, we can do it all in one to two pots with one or two knives and a cutting board. Most recipes cook and serve in a reasonable amount of time for a busy family trying to eat by the dinner hour (30 to 45 minutes; some do have additional marinating times, but this is noted in the cook times).

The recipes are scalable and we can choose how many recipes we want to use in a week. We’re a leftover type family, so we like having meals we can serve twice during the week. This works out really well with Relish! because we can choose two or three recipes for the week, get a shopping list based on those recipes, and with additions for breakfast and lunch, go shopping.

The shopping list is well organized. The shopping list is organized in two ways: 1) by category and 2) by recipe. So, for example, you will find all the meats for the week together and all the baking goods required together. There is also a list for the items that you might already have, so you can run through that and circle what you need. The genius bit, though, is that each item on the buy list has a letter by it that is keyed to a recipe. So, if you want to make the main item but the side doesn’t work for your family, you can quickly find the items that are for the side and eliminate them.

Many recipes include sides. This has always been one of our biggest problems. We’re great with figuring out the entree, but sides stump us every time. Relish! Solves that problem by providing sides with many of their recipes. Admittedly, we don’t use all of the sides, or even many of them, but they help jump start us when we get stuck, so it ends up working out regardless.

While your subscription is running, you have access to the backlist of recipes from every week since you became a member. This is invaluable when you hit that one week where you just don’t find any of the recipes appealing, or there’s an amazing special on roast, but there isn’t a roast on this week’s menu list.

They also include myriad extras that are just great. Right now there are picnic menus, camping menus, and so forth. They also have dinner and a movie menus that are intriguing, though I think the representation of real kid movies is a bit thin right now.

Also included in the monthly subscription rate are “freezer meals.” These are five recipes that you can make and store in the freezer for times when cooking from start to finish seems like a really bad idea (say, like when your daughter is having major surgery, for example). These recipes vary from marinating foods that then need cooking to breakfasts to completely cooked meals that simply need cooking to be eaten.

What don’t we like?

There are a few things that could stand some improvement or that we’d love to see that relish can’t do, though I understand some of these are in the works.

We can’t add in family favorites that aren’t part of Relish!’s recipe. However, this is an application that’s coming. We’re very much looking forward to this.

The dessert recipes are sometimes a little strange and sometimes rely a bit too much on convenience foods. Now, anyone who knows me and reads this is going, this is hardly fair, and it’s true my baking standards are super, super high, so it would have been really surprising to find them able to meet that part. That said, this is the one thing we don’t experiment with as much, relying instead on tried and true adjunctmom favorites instead. Though, I will say the Chocolate Valencia Pie was out of this world good.

It doesn’t really offer the option of telling them food issues or preferences. So, for example, someone keeping Kosher might find this website more challenging to deal with. My personal dislike of olives has to be worked around. For some this would be a deal breaker, but for me it’s something I can work with. It’s not a true negative, but it means there are friends I cannot recommend them to because I know their dietary issues are far more challenging than mine.

And really? That’s it. Basically, we’re super happy with the service and strongly recommend it to anyone who is looking for ways to simplify their lives and free up time for things other than grocery shopping and cooking.

They’re coming out with an iPhone app for this service that I’m eager to see, but so far it hasn’t appeared yet.

We Lost A Good One

Dom DeLuise passed last night at 6p PST. Everyone is talking about the movies he made and the comedy he did, and you know, that’s great. He was a fantastic comedian. He always made people laugh and I’m glad that’s such a huge part of his legacy, but you know what? I really never watched his movies. I really didn’t enjoy the comedy so much. But I loved that man and I have referred to him as “Uncle Dom” for years because he taught me the most important secrets of my life:

The secret to truly stupendous meat sauce; the secret to soul satisfying Chicken Marsala; and, how to survive when you literally have no money to live on. He taught me how to make gnocchi that taste good and a pasta with broccoli that made me the envy of everyone in the building when I would bring it to work. I have eaten what I consider to be the only edible carbonara based on his recipe.

When I was pregnant, P would make me a sausage bread that nearly made me cry — thanks to Uncle Dom.

He was a culinary savant. You wouldn’t expect him to be able to do what he did with food, and yet, he did. He used his Mamma’s recipes, and his sisters’ and his friends. He borrowed/stole recipes from everyone and presented them in three cookbooks.

Eat This … It’ll Make You Feel Better. This is the original and the classic. It’s also out of print, which is a horrible shame. Here you’ll find literally dozens of recipes that are his family’s favorites and that will quickly become yours. I feel like I’ve lost a family member. The wonderful thing is that his children and his wife are fully aware of how much they’re loved because it’s in every page of this book. There are stains throughout this book from the many years I’ve been cooking from it. I bought this book when I was eighteen years old and I still cook from it today.

Eat This, Too. In all honesty, I don’t use this one as much. I like it, but it doesn’t quite do it for me the way the first one did. I found it so comforting to have even if I don’t use it.

Eat This, Again! I don’t own this one and, in fact, didn’t know it existed. It’s apparently a re-release of the first book based on the amazon reviews. As far as I’m concerned, that’s good news. It makes the book that I adore a bit more accessible for those who weren’t fortunate enough to find it the first time around.

All in all, we’ve lost an amazing talent in so many realms. Here’s hoping, for Dom’s sake, that there’s pasta and wine and good sausage in heaven and that Dom’s mother met him with a big old plate of his favorite dishes.