Meet Santa

Santa’s a drop-in who seems to like us but he does have Beagle blood so one day he could as easily drop-out of our lives. As of today he’s been here for over a year (arriving Christmas Eve 2010, thus the name).  We tried to find his owner but alas and alack no one appeared to claim him.

Best guess is that Santa is part Beagle and part Dachshund.   His Dachshund heritage shows up as short and low to the ground.  I find it highly amusing to watch him patter down the hallway; as he goes away his butt looks like it should belong to a mini furry Rhino. 

Low and long is cute but it is going to be an ongoing problem.  Santa, like any self-respectable dog loves to eat and he’s not picky; from garbage to gourmet.   He’ll take on our pit bull, Baby, if food is involved.

Naturally Santa has discovered who in the family will feed him directly off the dinner plate.    Yes, I might be one of those that sneak him a treat, especially since I have started trying out recipes for this blog.

Did Santa like the Beer Bread you ask…why of course he did.  He preferred it toasted with butter and strawberry jam.  Is he a Key Lime Pie aficionado?  I don’t know; that’s one food I don’t share—with anyone!

Santa got a nibble of last night’s supper but a nibble was all that was left.  It was one of those rare circumstances, a trifecta of cooking:  I saw a recipe in the Sunday paper, we had all the ingredients, and there was time to make it for dinner.  Sinfully easy.

4 frozen boneless chicken breasts

1 can of pineapple chunks, drained

1 jar of some tangy/spicy barbeque sauce

Put in crockpot, cook on low for 6 hours.  Here are the two changes we made:  6 frozen chicken breasts and then cooked on high for the last hour to be sure the extra meat was done.  It was, fall apart done and delicious atop yellow rice.  Added a salad and it was one of the simplest meals ever made in my kitchen.   Naturally along with the recipe the newspaper had a mouthwatering photo.  Sorry, you don’t get a photo; the chicken was all eaten before the lens cap came off.

But back to Santa, the main character in today’s blog.  What can be done before he’s so pampered with treats that his stomach hits the ground?

 If you know me you know how hard, how painfully hard, this is to say; Santa and I are going for walks and sometimes we even run.   It’s rained for 3 days so we’re a bit off schedule but tomorrow we’ll back in training. My fear is his enthusiasm for walking/running will get ahead of his ability one day and I’ll be the one carrying a tired and heavy dog home.  When that day happens he won’t get a snack from my dinner plate.


Beer Bread… Part 2

Enough of the boiling cauldron.  Beer Bread so simple even a child could make it – if there wasn’t that stigma of alcohol and children.  So it’s up to us adults to make this bread.

The Basics:

3 cups self-rising flour

¼ cup sugar

1 can beer – 12 oz.

¼ cup butter melted (this is optional – see “changes” below)

Stir the first 3 ingredients together, pour into greased loaf pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour.  Cool (or not) and enjoy this simple food.

But why walk away with just “simple.”   This is America, we can complicate almost anything.

It’s your choice: go simple or go with a few changes.

Flour

If you have all-purpose flour you can still make the recipe work it just takes a few more ingredients – you’ll have to add salt (1 tsp.) and baking powder (3 tsp.).

For years I didn’t really understand there were different types of flour and grabbed whatever bag was on sale – perhaps some early culinary failures can now be blamed on using all-purpose instead of self-rising or vice versa.  Oh well, cook and learn.

You don’t have to sift – but since your goal is dense fine grained bread sifting doesn’t take long and does make better bread, plus as I have stated before sifting makes me feel oh so domestic.

I’ve also made the recipe with whole wheat flour – a bit heavier than white flour but still good.

For more healthful bread, substitute ¼ cup of oatmeal for ¼ cup of the flour.  It will taste the same but you’ll feel healthier with every slice you eat.

Since I enjoy the basic bread so much I haven’t ventured far from the original recipe but like any bread you can add flavorings to the dough:  cheese, rosemary, or  roasted garlic are a few suggestions

 

A quick commercial for carbohydrates…

I love them.   Yesterday I realized my entire day’s food intake was carbohydrates with one slice of protein, all washed down with Diet Coke and good ‘ol plain unsweetened tea.  Hopefully my Doctor is not reading this blog.

Sugar

It’s alive!  And if you want the bread to be alive, gurgle, and rise to a respectable height don’t skip the sugar.  Sugar is your bread’s BFF.

Beer

Apparently the cheaper the better but remember you only need 12 oz.  If you’re like me and have 16 oz. cans around you’ll need to figure out something to do with those extra 4 oz.  (No comment on where that extra beer went, I know you and trust you’ll find something to do with it.)

Butter (optional)

Traditionally what I have done is take a knob of butter and rub it across the top and all the sides once the bread is out of the pan.  It softens the crust.  While checking out recipes for this blog I discovered many people are now melting the butter and pouring it over the loaf during the last 5 minutes of cooking.  I tried that; not sure I like it.  The bread has an overall buttery taste but it seems just too buttery all soaked into the bread.

It’s up to you now – go forth and bake bread!  Beer Bread!

 

 

 

 


Double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Double Double

Toil and trouble

Fire burn

And cauldron bubble

Thanks Will for the witches recipe for Beer Bread.

More details, including the recipe, about Beer Bread tomorrow in ” Beer Bread Part 2.”


The Sifting Sands of Baking…mid-Century

The cooking utensils of my youth now fall into an antiques category named “mid-century.” To which I say “Oh come on now – it’s either an antique or not.”   I’m not buying this new category; for one thing it ages me and would imply that I too am an antique. Harrumph!  For another thing I feel it’s just a way to make what should be garage sale items more appealing.

When I was just a lass my father owned an Army-Navy Surplus store.  Naturally not everything would fit into the store so he had a storage shed at the house for a few of the overflow items.  Trust me, I have seen garage sale items en masse. It’s in the blood and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Since I’m talking mid-Century let me go just a bit earlier.  Still not a true antique but from an age I’ll call premid-century.   I came across it at Goodwill: a flour sifter.  It intrigued me and the price was well within my budget, less than a dollar.  I did a little research and depending on where I got the info it’s either from the 1930s or 40s.

It’s the sifter on the left.  The blank space in the middle of the photo is for the flour sifter I remember from my youth:  the true mid-century one.  It had a crank handle, red I think.  Apparently it disappeared into a landfill somewhere between Florida and Georgia.  The sifter on the right is my current version – brighter, fancier with more moving parts.  Both sifters are a cylinder shape, both have wire mesh bottoms.  I don’t think the new one is any better than the original.  In fact, the newest sifter tends to get flour and other items caught under its many blades.

If you’re a television food fan you know the current rage is shaking the flour through a wire mesh basket.  For me that actually worked better, until someone sat on the durn thing. A good bit flatter it still works. I just can’t get as many dry ingredients into it as I used to.

There are those that will tell you modern flours do not need to be sifted; better quality production and all.  Even if it’s true I still like the idea I’m mixing my baking soda, salt and other dry ingredients with the flour as I sift away.  It makes me happy.

My youngest daughter used to make the best pancakes: light and fluffy.  When asked why her pancakes were so much better than mine she always said the same thing “It’s because I take the time to shift the flour.”

Whether you sift the flour or shift it from the bag to the mixing bowl it seems to help my baking; along with having the patience to have all the ingredients at room temperature before starting, but that’s another blog.


Pots, pans and lids…Oh My!

It’s a new year – time to organize my life.  This year it’s the kitchen.  I have been on a multiday intensive cleaning and rearranging binge.  All the pots, pans and lids were moved to a table to sort through and match lids with containers.

We have moved the obligatory number of times for a typical American family and each time everything was boxed up.  It appears we should have left numerous items behind on some of the moves. Where did all the lids come from?  I don’t recall just going out one day and buying pot lids and I’m pretty sure I haven’t arbitrarily thrown cooking pots away but I still have more lids than pots.  It’s a mystery.

On the good news side the missing slow cooker lid reappeared so I no longer have to use foil to cover the pot.  Naturally the pot that no one uses because it’s too big for the cooktop has been reunited with its lid.  The missing blade for the food processor was found: no one confessed to putting it on top of the fridge, it must have jumped.

I also have a Lodge lid for a large camping Dutch-oven.  A normal person would remember where the pot is but I don’t have a clue.  When the weather warms up it appears my kitchen cleaning will morph into a storage shed cleaning as I search for that piece of cookware. The Cub Scouts could use it on their next campout.  I could make peach cobbler.  If you have taken any scout outdoor training, boy or girl, you know the recipe.  It’s the one with yellow cake mix, canned peaches and butter.

Lid problems are not new to me.  Years ago I, oh so wisely, bought a lid holder from a friend who was selling Tupperware.  A plastic rod that screwed into a cabinet door and all those hinged lids that were scattered in every drawer and on every shelf could be slid on.  With no help from hubby I proudly screwed the thing into the door.  Hooray, organization was just minutes away.  After a thorough search I discovered that I no longer owned any of the lids with hinges, all mine were a newer style and the holder was useless.

I finished 2011 at Goodwill and am about to start my 2012 donations.  Some of these items were bought before Infomercials so there’s no excuse for the poor judgment.  A juicer.  Really?  I prefer my carrots crunchy.  The above-mentioned really deep and wide pot.  Were we about to entertain a battalion?  One ceramic chop stick holder.  One?  Even I would avoid buying that at a garage sale; it must have snuck in under another item.

At last count I had three lonely lids who are about to make the short trip to the “going away” box.  I’m going to wait a day or two and see if the pots wander back into sight once the Christmas tree is removed and some semblance of order returns to the house.   Who knows what cookery lurks in the branches of that evergreen.