Tag Archive | baking

Sous vide……..What a Great New Way to Cook!

The holidays are always greatly anticipated at our house, especially when we are privileged to host our family and friends. We go into high gear – and this year, it was even more fun than usual.

A couple of weeks ago, a new-found friend had been explaining a cooking technique he used. It was called sous vide. What??? How do you spell that?

It's French, pronounced “soo veed” and it means “under vacuum”. After our friend's animated description, we looked at each other and decided we just had to check into this technique a bit further. Off to the Internet we went, reading different recipes and understanding the whole concept of this type of cooking. The sous vide technique cooks your food in a vacuum sealed bag while it is submerged in a water bath at a precisely controlled temperature —- whew! That's a mouthful!

In a nutshell, you take your piece of meat, for example, and place your favorite spices, fruits, and/or rubs inside the bag. Vacuum seal the bag closed and submerge it in the sous vide cooker. It is preset to a special temperature and the cooker will hold water within one degree of that temperature for the entire period of time it cooks. The natural flavors and juices are locked inside the bag as it cooks. The nutrients found in the food are retained – compared to grilling or baking, where they may evaporate or stay within the pan.

The time and temperature that you cook your meat varies. We did a brisket for 48 hours (yup, you heard it right!). Beef tenderloin – 4 to 6 hours. Pork tenderloin took 6-8 hours and salmon was done in fifty minutes. Each cut of meat was sealed in it's own bag with it's own variety of seasonings. The low, slow way of cooking made the meat OH so tender and moist.

We chose to purchase a sous vide cooker, but have been told that you can make your own by purchasing a heating element and circulator on-line. I will tell you that the cooker, itself, was pricey – but we seldom go out to eat and I would liken the price to a fancy dinner out for four. The water temperature and the cooking time determine the “done-ness” of the food – so special attention was given to the cooking manual!

Not to be outdone by the main dish, we had to have some homemade Thanksgiving bread to complete the look. We made a batch of dough, shaped the rolls into balls and scored the sides with a sharp knife. As the dough rose, it spread apart and gave the appearance of a little pumpkin. We stuck a nut in the top to give it a stem – and off to the oven they went.

After a wonderful day of great family, friends, and food – we paused to say “thanks” for another holiday….and bustled off to the car to go see Santa!!

 

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Hide!! It’s the Neighbor With All of the Zucchini!

You've been there – I know. You have either grown zucchini or you have a neighbor who has. Thinking that they will (surely) never all grow, you plant 4 or 5 zucchini plants and before you know it, you are loading up the truck and driving up and down the neighborhood trying to give them away. Right?

 

With zucchini, a little goes a long way. I normally plant one or two hills (with a few seeds in each hill), and then prune the emerging seed plants from the hill to one or two plants total. I do have neighbors who like a few zucchini, but the majority of my pickings end up being shredded and frozen for use all through the year. There are two recipes that are our ABSOLUTE favorites around here and were originally given to me by my neighbor, Jennifer.

Here is a bag of shredded zucchini taken right from the freezer from the end of the 2012 growing season

First is the Tastes Like Apple Zucchini Crisp. Not only does this recipe use eight cups of zucchini, (really helpful on those days that you check the garden and they are everywhere!) but, I have made this recipe on numerous times – served it as Apple Crisp – and have yet to have anyone know the difference. Even when asked, my hungry consumers look at me as if I am lying when I say, “did you know this is zucchini?” Try this recipe and see if you believe me!

Recipe #1, Tastes Like Apple Zucchini Crisp

8 cups peeled zucchini. I slice them like you would if you were using apples

3/4 cup lemon juice

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon if nutmeg

 

Topping:

1 1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1 cup of flour

2/3 cup cold butter

Mix the first five ingredients well and pour into a 9 x13″ baking dish. For the topping, combine the brown sugar, oats, and flour – then cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.

Sprinkle the topping mix over the zucchini mix and bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes. The smell of 'apples' baking will fill your kitchen!

 

The second recipe will appeal to the chocolate lover in you. The brownies are ooey, gooey – and stay moist for a long time.

Zucchini Brownies

2 cups of grated unpeeled zucchini

2 cups of flour

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoon baking sod

1/3 cup cocoa

2 teaspoons of vanilla

This is what the batter looks like as you stir it all up – note the small shreds of zucchini.

Mix all, place in a greased and floured 9 x 13″ pan and bake for 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

 

If you want to frost these guys, combine 4 tablespoons of butter with 4 tablespoons of milk and a cup of granulated sugar. Boil for two minutes, add 2 cups of chocolate chips, stir until melted and pour over the warm brownies.

Ready to plant some zucchini this spring?? Just remember, if you don't want the neighbors hiding from you as you try to pass out your excess pickings, just plant what you think you will eat or freeze for the year. One trick I use is to pinch the orange zucchini blossoms off the plant when it seems like it is really in high production. The female flower is easy to spot – it will have the little round circular ball by the flower which will eventually become the zucchini. Just pinch it off, and the plant will never miss it.

There are many, many wonderful uses for this veggie, including casseroles and side dishes. Plant your seeds when all of the danger of frost has passed, and be sure to harvest one final time in the fall before the plant freezes. It is a tender annual and will be one of the first to die when old man winter comes knocking!

 

Mom’s Good Luck Bread

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My memories see rows of ripe, red raspberries, plump peas hanging from the vine, and baskets of freshly dug potatoes. Lots of potatoes. Growing up in the midwest in a Scandinavian family, potatoes were a staple. My Dad loved them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if my Mom would fix them for him.

Food was harvested from the land whenever possible, whether it be from the garden, fresh venison or grouse, fish from the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, or picking wild blueberries in the woods. The food was fresh, and OH, so good! I barely remember a box food besides my favorite breakfast cereal. It’s clear that, as the generations unfold, many ways are forgotten or lost.

My Mom gave me the recipe for her bread years and years ago. It was handwritten on a small piece of paper, and the heading on the paper read, “Good Luck”, I think more in keeping with my ability to make the bread than this bread being called the good luck bread! Her ingredients weren’t exact, but were written to say things like “add flour until it feels like”, or “scald the milk, but don’t boil tho”. The scrap of paper with my “Good Luck” bread followed me and my family for years from house to house always stuck in the recipe box – but one day, it was gone. I tore through my collection of recipes, frantic to find the paper. Nowhere! You’d think after years of preparing this bread, I could recite it by heart, and to that end – yup, I almost can. But I still looked for it, hoping to this day to see that slip of paper with Mom’s handwriting on it. So, before it gets lost again in another shuffle, here’s our “Good Luck” bread recipe.

Good Luck Bread

1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1/2 cup warm milk
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon of salt
3 3/4 cup flour
1 pkg. yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

I use my breadmaker for this recipe – setting the machine on the ‘dough’ cycle. Always put your wet ingredients in the bottom of the breadmaker pan first – followed by the dry ingedients.

As the dough is getting mixed, lift the lid on your breadmaker just to feel the consistency of the dough. Add a little bit of flour if it feels too sticky, or a little lukewarm water if it feel too dry. You’ll want it to mold easily, but not stick to your fingers. When the dough cycles is finished, let it rise until you can poke the doughball with your finger and the hole remains in your dough.

Mom often made “finger rolls” from this recipe – and it was a favorite around our house for sure! Cut your dough into eight (or so) equal pieces and shape each portion into a “finger” laying each side by side in the pan.

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