Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rosemary-Garlic Foccacia

With all the crock pot soup I've been making, I've felt the urge to have an equally hearty accompaniment. I suddenly found myself thinking of foccacia.

But not just any foccacia. Foccacia studded with rosemary, garlic, and big flakes of salt.

A tablespoon of yeast (or a package, if you're using the premeasured packages) is your first ingredient.

Warm-ish water will help wake the yeast up.

If you're not sure if your water is too hot, stick your finger in it. The water should be slightly warmer than your body. If it hurts your hand, it's too hot! It will kill the yeast and your bread won't rise.

I recommend slowly heating your water in the microwave at 5-10 second increments. You need to start out with cold water--hot water from the tap won't cut it. The hot water will loosen mineral deposits in your pipes. Have you ever looked at the hot water that comes out of your kitchen sink, and seen how cloudy it is? It's minerals.

Sprinkle in half the flour.

Then turn on the mixer. Beat it for about a minute, on high.

Now for the aromatics. Fresh rosemary goes so well with garlic!

Strip the leaves off the woody branches.

Grab some garlic.

Chop the garlic and the rosemary together. The moisture in the garlic will help the rosemary not fly all over the place, and the rosemary oil will infuse into the garlic bits.

Pour in the rest of the flour, the herbs and garlic, and some olive oil.

The kitchen smells so good right now.

Mix together. And add some salt.

Beat the dough until it pulls away from the mixer in one big ball.

Grab a bowl and drizzle in some olive oil. This will help your dough rise and make it easier to remove it later.

Turn the dough out of the mixing bowl, and stretch it. Pinch the edges underneath, to make a ball.

Move the dough to the bowl and cover with some plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for an hour (or more), until doubled in size.

Like this.

Pick out a nonstick baking sheet and pour on some olive oil. Make sure the oil is well distributed and that every nook and cranny of the sheet gets a coating of oil.

Turn your dough onto the baking sheet.

Use your fingers and do your best to spread the dough evenly around the pan.

Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for another 20-30 minutes.

It'll really fill the pan!

Use your fingertips to make little divots in the dough. Then brush some olive oil over the top of the dough.

Chop up more rosemary and garlic.

Sprinkle it over the top of the dough. Sprinkle on some coarse salt, too. I used a coarse gray sea salt, but kosher salt is okay too.

Bake at 425F for 25-30 minutes until the top of the bread is golden brown on top and cooked through on the bottom. Let it cool slightly before cutting and serving!

Recipe: Rosemary-Garlic Foccacia

1 package yeast
1 2/3 c. warm water
4 3/4 c. flour
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. coarse salt

In a large bowl, combine yeast and water. Add half the flour; beat on high for a minute. Add rosemary and garlic; beat until combined. Add the rest of the flour, the olive oil, and the salt. Beat until dough is soft and elastic and pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Turn dough out and place in a oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, at least an hour.

Oil a baking sheet very, very well, Turn dough onto sheet and use your fingers to evenly distribute the dough in the pan. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for about 30 minutes.

Use your fingertips to press small indents all over the top of the dough. Brush dough with olive oil, and sprinkle rosemary, garlic, and salt over the top.

Bake in a 425F pan for 30-35 minutes, until dough is golden on the top and crisp on the bottom. Cool for 5-10 minutes. If possible, turn out bread from the pan after cooling; if not possible, cut bread into serving-size squares and remove from pan (to prevent the bottom of the brad getting moist.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Easy As Applesauce

Since it's apple season, I felt it was time to make some homemade applesauce. It's so easy, and I love how it tastes. The Kid loves it too, which makes it even greater. And I let my crock pot do all the work, which meant that all I had to do was peel some apples, and in no time my house smelled amazing and I had the easiest applesauce ever.

So, right. Peel the apples. I like to peel my apples in a long, curving strip because it's fun. Feel free to peel however you want to.

Use a nice, mealy apple. I used Galas. If you've got a local orchard, why not go and buy locally-grown apples? The apple people should be able to point you to the best kind of sauce apples they've got.

Cut the peeled apple in half.

Then cut it in half again.

Cut into the core at an angle.

Coring. It's as easy as that.

Now that your apple quarter is cored, you can--guess what?--cut it again.

And again!

Don't worry. We're done cutting now. Toss the apples into your slow cooker.

Seven apples were the perfect amount for my 1.5 quart insert.

I threw some of the peel on top, for flavor and color.

And then, not thinking, I completely negated the color aspect that the peel offers by using brown sugar instead of white.

Yeah. Not very smart. If you like pink applesauce, use white sugar. I just really like how brown sugar tastes. But be warned, you'll end up with brown applesauce. Be smarter than me.

And then I was going to throw in a cinnamon stick, but apparently was out of them. So I used ground cinnamon instead. Again, if you like white applesauce, check your pantry before going to the grocery store to make sure you actually have cinnamon sticks.

A bit of apple cider will help your apples cook down more quickly.

Turn your crock pot on high and go do something else for the next several hours.

After 3-4 hours, your sauce should be ready! The apples should be soft and cooked through. If they're not, just let them cook longer.

I started out with a potato masher, but then the request came for smooth applesauce. So I grabbed my immersion blender and went for smooth instead of chunky.

There. Nice, smooth applesauce.

Serve it hot or cold, for breakfast or dessert, with food or by itself!

Recipe: Easy as Applesauce

7-8 large mealy apples (Gala, Fuji, etc.)
1/3 c. brown or white sugar
1 2-3" long cinnamon stick (or 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon)
1/3 c. apple cider

Peel, core, and dice apples. Put in crock pot. Add sugar, cinnamon, and cider. Cook on high heat for 3-4 hours; if apples are not cooked through after that time, continue cooking until they are. Mash or blend until applesauce reaches your desired consistency.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cupcake Winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered the Kim Chee Casserole/Decadent Desserts cupcake giveaway! It's time to pick a winner--and that lucky winner, chosen by, is ...




Thanks to everyone who entered! We appreciate your continued support! And for those who weren't winners but who love cupcakes, be sure to visit Decadent Desserts' Web site to place an order!
Don't forget, she ships cookies and cake pops anywhere, and what says "Happy Holidays" better than a personalized cookie or cake pop bouquet? 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fennel and White Wine Meatballs

Don't forget to enter the Kim Chee Casserole/ Decadent Desserts Cupcake Giveaway! Just follow the link under "Current Giveaways" on the left side of the page!

It seems like The Kid asks for spaghetti and meatballs for dinner every day. I would love to oblige, but I ate a lot of jarred sauce in my early 20's. At this stage in my life, I like to have adult meals every once in a while. So I made these Fennel and White Wine meatballs the last time The Kid asked for "sketti." And guess what--she loved them as much as I did.

To make the meatballs, I used ground pork and some Italian sausage.

Pork and fennel go really well together.

I put a bunch of garlic cloves and some onion in my food processor and chopped them up finely.

Then they were added to the meat mixture.

Some hot pepper flakes will wake your taste buds up (but don't worry, these meatballs aren't super spicy, I promise!)

And of course, some fennel is added, because these are fennel meatballs. For optimum flavor, toast the seeds in a hot, dry pan before adding them.

And, as always, don't forget to add salt and pepper.

An egg will bind your meatballs together.

As will some breadcrumbs.

Regular breadcrumbs would have been more traditional--unfortunately, I was all out and Panko crumbs were all I had. Worked out okay though.

Drizzle in about half a small bottle of white wine. You know those little bottles that they sell in 4-packs? Yeah, those. You'll need two of those for this recipe in total. Or just buy a big bottle of wine and measure it manually.

Finally, some olive oil will add some moisture and richness to your meatballs.

Remove any jewelry you don't want to gunk up with meat, and start mixing!

Wash your hands well and pour some olive oil into a large pot.

Form your meat mixture into meatballs.

Then (very, very carefully!) drop them into the hot oil.

Now, here's the thing about these meatballs. They're very, very delicate. If you're the person who likes to touch their food constantly, open the oven to check on baked goods every couple of minutes, etc., I would put someone else in charge of these meatballs. You need to let them form a nice crust before flipping them, or they'll fall apart.

And flip them carefully. I used my little spatula to slowly lift them, making sure that there was no sticking (if they're sticking, just let them cook a bit longer.) Then slowly roll them over.

You'll also want to make sure that you have plenty of room to flip the meatballs, since there will be no lifting and moving them to other parts of the pot until they're completely crusty on the outsides.

When all your meatballs are golden brown on the outside, carefully remove them and put them in a bowl or plate and set them aside for later.

Oh, and if some of your meatballs break, don't sweat it--they'll melt into the tomato sauce and will ust make it more hearty and delicious.

So anyway, once your meatballs have vacated the pan, add more olive oil if necessary. You'll need it to saute some onions and garlic.

Once the onions and garlic have soaked up the meat bits and are softened, pour in the remaining wine. The rest of the bottle from before, and another whole bottle (and remember, we're talking mini bottles here!)

I decided to use a can of tomato sauce and a can of diced tomatoes in the sauce.

Pour the tomatoes in. Sauce first.

Then diced.

To tie the meatball flavors to the sauce, both have white wine and fennel seeds.

Stir the sauce together and then add the meatballs back in to the pot.

Cover and let the sauce poach the meatballs for at least half an hour.

That should give you the perfect amount of time to make some spaghetti to serve under your sauce and meatballs! Long noodles are great for this--the sauce is on the thinner side, but the noodles absorb it so well that you get the taste of tomato in every bite.

Recipe: Fennel and White Wine Meatballs

1 lb. ground pork
1/2 lb. ground sausage
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 large onion, peeled
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 egg
2/3 c. bread crumbs
1/2 c. white wine (about 1/2 a small bottle)
1 tbsp. olive oil
olive oil, for frying

Recipe: Fennel and White Wine Tomato Sauce:
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 1/2 bottles white wine (about a cup and a half)
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
2 tsp. fennel seeds