Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Paczki Day 2009: A Pictorial How To Shape, Fry, and Fill

Welcome to the 2009 installment of Paczki Day at The Sour Dough!

As a good Michigan girl with some Polish relatives (on my father's side of the family), eating Paczki isn't a new thing for me and I've blogged about Paczki before.

This morning I introduced my office to them. With the exception of Mark and Mike, the two guys in the office next to me who both have Polish and Midwestern roots respectively, no one else has ever heard of a Paczki. Like most days when I bring something good in to the office, they didn't last long.

To get you in the mood for Paczki Day, take a look at the whole process of shaping, frying, and filling this delectable sugar bomb of a treat. I'll bet before you are through with all the pictures, you are already plotting where to find a Paczki in your area!

Paczki Cut Out and Ready to Raise
All cut out and ready for a last raise.

Raised Paczki
Paczki, raised and ready to fry!

Paczki in the Oil
In the hot oil! Only about 1 minute a side please...

Frying Paczki in Batches
Just about half way through

Fried but Not Filled
All fried and ready to fill

Paczki Filling Tools
Everything you need to fill your Paczki. Raspberry this year.

Pile o' Paczki
A Pile o' Paczki! All filled and ready for their powdered sugar dusting


And, since around this time of the year my Google Analytics tells me "calories in paczki" is one of the most searched for phrases, there are about 420 calories and 25 grams of fat in each one.

But don't let that stop you from having one today. After all, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. You can diet then...


1 1/2 packages active dry yeast
10 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 ounce rum or whiskey
1/4 cup lukewarm milk
1/2 cup melted butter
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups canned prune filling or cherry jam
(Note: you can substitute any flavoured jam to your liking, just be careful to avoid the really sweet ones as they will be overpowering. Some recipes I’ve found also use poppy seed paste)
1/2 cup milk, scalded & cooled
1 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar

Step 1: Make the sponge

Activate the yeast by dissolving in the 1/4 cup lukewarm milk( milk will become slightly bubbly and frothy in about 5-10 minutes). Scald the 1/2 cup milk while waiting for the yeast to become activated and gradually add the flour into the scalded milk (I sift my flour before adding it to the scalded milk). Add the yeast mixture and stir until smooth. Cover and let rise until very bubbly (about 1/2 hour)

Step 2: Make the dough

Beat the salt into the egg yolks. Then add the sponge to the egg yolks and salt. Mix very well until smooth. Add the sugar and rum again mixing well. Knead in the bowl until a nice smooth dough ball forms. Next, form a well and pour in the melted butter and combine with your hands until thoroughly mixed. Place in a greased bowl, coat with nonstick cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled (about 1 - 1 1/2 hours). When dough is doubled, punch it down and let rise until double or triple (about 2 hours).

Step 3: Form the paczki:

Divide dough in half, set one half aside in covered bowl so it doesn’t dry out. Roll out the half you are working into a rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or the mouth of a glass (2″ or larger) cut as many rounds as possible. Place a about 3 tsp of filling in the center of one round. Brush edge of round with egg white and cover the filling with another round. Seal edges very well so filling won’t leak out and rounds won’t separate during last rise. Place the filled paczki greased baking sheets. Leave about 4 inches of room between each paczki to allow for rising. Repeat the process until all the dough is used (this recipe will make between 10 - 12 good sized paczki depending on amount of dough). Lightly cover with greased plastic wrap and let the paczki rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

Step 4: Fry the paczki
(note: if you have a deep fryer, make sure you change the oil if you have fried anything other than pastries)

Pour a neutral tasting oil into a deep fryer or deep pan (about 7 inches if you are using deep pan ). Heat the oil until it is about 360 to 370 degrees. Deep fry the paczki for about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown on both sides and it floats to the top. Let drain on cooling rack covered with paper towel to absorb any excess oil (flip over after about 2 minutes or so) Dust with powdered sugar when slightly warm. Let cool completely before serving as filling will be very hot otherwise.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cookbook Casting Call: Report Card for How to Cook Everything and A New Week's Book and Menu

Well look! Here we are on a Monday and I'm actually going to post the review for Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Amazing huh?!

Well, not really considering we did most of this food two weeks ago and you remember the menu?

Yea, pretty much throw that out as when it actually came time to cook most of the things on that menu, I was so up against the wall on time owing to having to get back to the office after dinner that I ended up doing a lot of improvising based on what I could quickly defrost and fix.

So here is the revised menu, for the most part. I didn't write everything down on the day I made them, but you will get the picture. Asterisk are the items I made from "How to Cook Everything"

Sunday 2/8:
Dinner: Movie night in NYC with Friends
Dessert: Bread Pudding* with Vanilla Ice Cream

Monday 2/9:
Lunch: Simple Greek Salad*
Dinner: Smoky Slow Cooker Chili (from Jan/Feb 2009 Cooking Light) with Jiffy Mix Corn Bread

Tuesday 2/10:
Lunch: Chili and corn bread
Dinner: Pasta with Porcini* and Fastest Yeast Bread* (I'll be the judge of that!)
Dessert: left over bread pudding

Wednesday 2/11:
Lunch: Chili and corn bread
Dinner: Polenta Pizza*

Thursday 2/12:
Lunch: Leftover polenta pizza (actually Ramen Noodle Cup because well you will have to read why)
Dinner: Samosa* and Kitchens Of India Ready To Eat Pav Bhaji (Mashed Vegetable Curry)nand Ready to Serve Brown Minute Rice

Friday 2/13:
Lunch: Leftover Samosas and Curry
Dinner: Take Out Chinese Food (at work)

So, how did "How to Cook Everything" fare?

First, let me say, I really like watching Mark Bittman on the various PBS and other network food shows and I faithfully read "Bitten" and "The Minimalist" columns in the NYT. And, the roasted root vegetables I did back a few weeks ago were fantastic. But I was kind of dissapointed with the overall food I produced from "How to Cook Everything". I actually found most of it well, bland.

Maybe the premise is that with the recipes from this cookbook, you use them as foundations to explore your own seasonings. I don't know. All I know is that from all the things I cooked from the book, I found two things really extraordinary: Pasta with Porcini

Bittman's HTCE: Pasta with Porcini

and the Samosas

Bittman's HTCE Samosas

and,I had what I think is one of the worst things I've ever put in my mouth, rocky mountain oysters not withstanding, the polenta pizza

Bittman"s HTCE: Polenta Pizza

(which incidently, was featured last week in the Food and Dining section of the NYT).

I am happy to report that the Fastest Yeast Bread is indeed fast

Bittman's HTCE: Fastest Yeast Bread

and, like the recipe says, doesn't have a great crust or flavor, but it was fast and I'll probably make it again but add herbs and cheese to give it some flavor.

The recipe that I had great hopes for but was really dissapointed in the flavor was the roast pork shoulder, Puerto Rican - Style.

Bittman's HTCE: Puerto Rican Style Pork Shoulder

I made it in the slow cooker, after searing it and while, I didn't expect the skin to be crispy, I did expect the flavor of the adobo sauce that Bittman describes as "vastly superior" to the store bought kind to be outstanding. Unfortunately, like so many of the dishes I had, it was rather bland and I found myself adding more garlic and oregano to the meat after I had sliced it.

By this stage of the week, I had learned my lesson and when I was roasting the potatoes I had with the roast pork,

Bittman's HTCE: Puerto Rican Style Pork Shoulder and Oven Roasted Potatoes

I tossed on a good helping of cumin. Like the roast root vegetables, the roasted potatoes were fantastic and I'm going to be making them again.

I wish I could give "How to Cook Everything" a great grade, especially as the cookbook is pretty well written and has nice explainations and well done diagrams; a must have in my humble opinion in a cookbook claiming to be a good all around basic cookbook. However, I am probably going to have to rate "How to Cook Everything" as a B/B-.

In regards to how I did on the winter pantry plan that week, I did pretty good spending $32.06 on all groceries that week. It was a bit higher because I thought I had part of a pork shoulder in the freezer and when I went to get it out to defrost, I realized I had a tenderloin instead. I probably could have used that had I done the pork shoulder in the oven but since I was going to use the slow cooker, I wanted something with a little more fat so it wouldn't dry out over the long cooking time.

Now for this week's cookbook and menu. Drum roll please.....


We are going to be putting that orginal of original compendiums, Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition through it's paces.

75th Anniversary Edition of Joy of Cooking

I've had a little bit of a head start on this week's menu as I started cooking from it last night before telling you about our cookbook but I know you won't hold that against me.

Menu for 2/22 - 2/27 - Week Five of the Cookbook Casting Call and Winter Pantry Plan: Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition

Like always, item's marked with "*" are from this week's cookbook

Sunday 2/22:
Oscar Night Dinner: New England Clam Chowder* and salad
Dessert: Bread Pudding* (This is becoming a must test recipe in all the cookbooks)

Monday 2/23:
Lunch: Leftover Clam Chowder
Dinner: Tomato and Goat Cheese Quiche*

Tuesday 2/24: Paczki Day!
Lunch: Leftover Quiche and Chowder
Dinner: Country Captain*
Dessert: left over bread pudding

Wednesday 2/25:
Lunch: Leftover Country Captain and salad
Dinner: Kale, Potato, and Country Ham Gratin*
Dessert: Wartime Wednesday Apple Brown Betty

Thursday 2/26:
Lunch: In NYC
Dinner: Spaghetti Carbonara*

Friday 2/27:
Lunch: Leftover pasta
Dinner (Puzzle Night): Hot Crab Dip* and frozen appetizers (leftover from pre-Christmas get together)
Dessert: Mini Mississippi Mud Cake*

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lazy Saturday Morning in the Sun

As you are probably well aware from all the whining I've been doing on this blog instead of cooking/baking, I've been working lots and lots of hours these past few weeks. There hasn't been a weekend in over a month that I haven't at least spent half a day doing some work. Even if I was at home puttering around in the kitchen, I'd bring a job folder home and do some work.

Not this weekend! I left all job folders at work tossed on the desk in my office; which looks like a bomb went off on/in but that is another story. I didn't even link to the job folder to make it available "off line" so I could open it this weekend. Instead, I'm taking the whole weekend off to sleep in late, read a few books I'm in the middle of, and especially bake and play in the kitchen.

I have Sara's BBB Challah on the baking plan (I had to sit out that month and have felt awful about it since, especially as I love Challah) as well as Packzi to take into work on Fat Tuesday. There is this certain item that I have to make for that HUGE group of bakers I belong to that I really need to tackle this weekend too otherwise I'm going to have to take a pass, and, as a really, really good blogging friend is one of the hosts, I don't want to be a loser. Plus I have a Cookbook Casting Call menu to plan as well!

Both LB and I have spent a rather lazy Saturday morning so far. I got up late (9AM), made myself a pot of French press coffee and the last of the BBB five grain bread with Fortnum and Mason's orange champagne marmalade for breakfast,

Lazy Saturday Breakfast

and spent a very enjoyable hour chatting on Skype with my online wife, Sara.

Now, showered and awake, I'm sitting here waiting for my hair to dry to before I head out and take care of a few errands, like picking up the perscription of antibiotics for my sinus infection that has been ready for pick up for oh I don't know... a week now, before I head to my coffee shop and wile the afternoon away with this month's issue of Cooking Light, Gourmet, and the cookbook for next week's Cookbook Casting Call figuring out the menu.

LB has had an equally lazy morning. He has taken to chasing the winter sun around the living room; starting out propped up against the VCR/Playstation/Subwoofer where the sun touches the room first

LB Catching First Morning Sun

and ending up at the foot of the couch doing "cat things".

LB Doing Cat Things in Sun

This morning was no different and now he is curled up taking an early afternoon nap and proving he is the "Alpha" of the house by doing it in my spot on the couch where the sun will make it's last appearance before drifting to the other side of the house.

While I haven't been able to cook and blog about it much lately, I have paid a little attention to the layout of this blog. Probably the most noticable change it the lovely new header for The Sour Dough!

You may recognize the artist's work from other blogs like my good friend Veronica's. The artist is the super talented Ximena of Lobstersquad and if you aren't familiar with her work, you should go read her blog. She not only cooks and writes about her food but she is an illustrator as well. Thanks Ximena, I've never been so chic!

I also moved the rss feed subscriber buttons to the sidebar. They had been hiding at the bottom and, since I had to move my blog back to blogger after shutting down the servers for The Sour Dough after Wren's passing, I have received quite a few emails from folks wondering how to re-subscribe to The Sour Dough. If you haven't updated your feed readers to my new address, feel free to clicky-clicky over there on the sidebar! Or you can manually update your reader by typing the url breadchick.blogspot.com.

OK, my hair is dry and the last of my coffee is gone. Time to get out in the sun, take care of those pesky errands, and then go laze away the afternoon!

Right after I let LB's good friends at CatSynth, Luna and Amar, know what he's up to. They are hosting this week's Weekend Cat Blogging and we haven't been very good about participating lately.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wartime Wednesday and a Few Thoughts for the Red-Headed Clown of Fast Food


Once again, we are going to be skipping this week's Cookbook Casting Call because I'm working so much and didn't have time over the weekend to even think about making a menu. Besides, I had that lovely Bread Baking Babe anniversary bread to bake too!

So, we're going to delay our review of Mark Bitmann's How To Cook Everything

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

until Saturday and introduce the next cookbook that we are going to check out for Cookbook Casting Call.

Because of all this working, I haven't been able to do a recipe from my copy of The Victory Binding of the American Woman's Cook Book (VBotAWCB)to do Wartime Wednesdays with my good friend Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness. I've got an offering for Wartime Wednesdays this week but before we get to that I have a few food things I just have to get off my chest.

I was at the venerable Apollo Theatre today to check out a few things going on with the sound system. Let me tell you walking out on stages like the one at the Apollo, the MET, or Radio City and standing center stage peering into the dark house with the stage lights in your eyes is pretty thrilling, even if I'm there only to check out the technical side of things. But I digress....

When it came time for lunch I headed out the front door and turned left towards Park Ave. Unfortunately, I discovered there aren't many choices for a quick meal around the Apollo outside of the usual fast food restaurants, which I really and truly try my darnedest not to eat. Unfortunately, I had a very limited amount of time to get something to eat and couldn't explore the better known soul food restaurants a few blocks away.

Which is how I ended up in the McDonald's a few doors down, where I hoped at least I could get a salad. We've now arrived at the point where I get to stand on my soapbox...

While I was standing in line, I looked at the menu trying to locate the salads. I couldn't find them. I could find the triple Quarter Pounder with Cheese at a whopping 1400 calories (NYC makes chain restaurants put calories on the menu in plain sight) and the double Filet O' Fish with a whale of calories numbering 960 calories. I could have two apple pies for a dollar or two cheeseburgers for two. But nowhere did I see any fresh salads on the menu.

Deciding that the cheeseburger offered the fewest calories of the menu, with the exception of the hamburger (which I just don't like at McDonald's), I ordered, paid and stood to the side to wait since the lines were long behind me. That is when I saw, tucked way back in the corner on a wall not even FACING the lines where people stand to order a very tiny menu sign showing the salads. The writing on the menu was so small, I couldn't make out what the offerings were or their prices.

Basically, it was a reduced sized menu hung in a place where no one would see it and therefore not even consider eating a more healthy meal. I started to find myself get angry because that exact same menu, with the exact same pictures of lovely salads, grilled chicken wraps and fruit and yogurt combos is prominently displayed front and center at the McDonald's in Westport, CT and Darien, CT as well as the McDonald's on the "right side of the tracks" in Norwalk, CT. Kind of makes you think doesn't it?

I mean, you can't tell me that no one who enters the 125th St McDonald's near the Apollo (or over near the less affluent side of Norwalk for that matter) doesn't want to eat healthy or can't afford a salad. I mean, come on... They were setting up the McCafe in the Harlem location for heaven's sake to shill their McLattes and McCapacinos with whipped cream and sprinkles on top!

And you can't tell me that if that healthy choice menu wasn't displayed more prominently with their better calorie offerings like 320 for the Southwest Salad with Chicken (without dressing) and an yogurt parfait at 160 for dessert, that people might not stop and think before ordering that Big Mac Value Meal that clocks in at 1170 calories?

But no, instead the folks who eat at this McDonald's are steered toward foods that contain more than half their daily required calories for the entire day as well as high sodium levels. It's shameful...

OK,I'm getting off my soapbox now.

One of the menu items from last week was the Smoky Slow Cooker Chili from this month's Cooking Light cover. It was very good but of course made a ton so I have quite a bit of it still hanging out in the fridge. I knew that this week, had I done Cookbook Casting Call, I would have used the left over chili for filling in either enchiladas or in a taco casserole. So, imagine my delight when I found in the "Wartime" section of The VBotAWCB a recipe for Tamale Pie.

Wartime Wednesday: Tamale Pie

I've made Tamale Pie before; after all it is the staple of any good college student's kitchen. But, I've typically made it with either corn chips on top or with a box of Jiffy Corn Bread mix. The VBotAWCB recipe calls for you to cook corn mush (corn meal, salt and water) and use that as a bottom crust and a top crust.

I'm happy to say, that I really enjoyed this meal. I love corn bread with my chili so this was like chili love sandwiched between two nice crusts of cornbread.

Wartime Wednesday: Tamale Pie Inside

I'll definitely be making this again because this recipe is a great way to use up leftover chili.

Tamale Pie
From the Wartime section of VBotAWCB

Note: I'm going to give you the real recipe from the cook book, but you can short cut this recipe by using left over chili like I did.

1 cup corn meal
4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 medium onion
1 green or chili pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 cups cooked tomatoes
2 cups ground cooked meat
1 tsp salt
dash cayenne or chili powder

Cook corn meal, water, and salt in double boiler for 45 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally.

Chop onion, pepper and fry in hot oil. Add tomatoes, meat, salt, and cayenne or chili and cook until thickened.

Line a greased baking dish with half the mush. Pour the meat mixture over and cover with remaining mush. Bake in a hot oven (375 degrees) for 30 minutes or until top is lightly browned and mush is baked through.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Bread Baking Babes Turn One with Five Grains and Some Nuts...

It's an important day today in Babeland. We're one year old!!

Yup, we've been running around each others kitchens in our special Babe panties, our aprons, drink in one hand, flour wand in the other for a whole year.

When Tanna and Karen contacted me almost thirteen months ago about being part of a small group of dedicated bread bakers I couldn't contain my excitement. Not only did I get to bake an interesting and difficult bread every month but I got to do with eleven other women who I enjoyed kibitzing and bitching with. To learn a bit more about the birth of the The Bread Baking Babes and our Bread Baking Buddies (see a pattern?), go visit founding member and our Den Mother Tanna's post.

Tanna is also our host kitchen this month and she presented us with a fantastic choice for our anniversary bread, Pane ai Cinque Cereali con Nod (Five-Grain Bread with Walnuts) from the incomparable Carol Field's The Italian Baker.

BBB logo februari 2009

I had fun with this dough because not only did it use some flours I don't get to bake with very often, oat and brown rice flour, but it called for fresh yeast too! (and you know my recent love affair with fresh compressed yeast)

All that flour left Isabelle a bit messy and emptied one of my flour containers.


There was a lot of dough too. I got one regular sized loaf, two small loaves for my neighbors Erica and Chris, and one really big croc like loaf into which I slashed a traditional wheat stalk.


When I sliced into the regular sized loaf, I was pleased to see a nice crumb and chunks of walnuts.


And look at my long loaf!


Isn't that lovely? The office is going to be really happy tomorrow.

This was so good, it was hard to stop at two pieces smeared with my favorite American Spoon Foods preserves, Blueberry and Lime.


If you are interested in joining us this month as a buddy, bake the bread before February 26th and contact our host kitchen Tanna with a link to your post about the bread.

If you want to see how my fellow Babes did this month, go check out their blogs by following the links over on my sidebar. You'll notice that there are two additional blogs this month, Canela and Comino (Gretchen) and Living in the Kitchen with Puppies (Natashya).

When we started our group we wanted to be small and stay small, an even dozen of babes in the kitchen (enough of us to drink two bottles of wine at any sitting). Last year, we tragically lost Sher of What Did You Eat when she passed away unexpectedly leaving a huge hole in our hearts and at our kitchen table. Glenna of A Fridge Full of Food, who was her best friend, stepped back to refocus her cooking. We miss both of them terribly and they will both ALWAYS be Babes but we also missed having an even dozen girls fighting over the last drop of wine in the bottle. So, we invited both Gretchen and Natashya, two long time Buddies to be full fledged Babes, panties and all. We're looking forward to bakin' and bitchin' with them over the next year.

Pane ai Cinque Cereali con Nod
(Five~Grain Bread with Walnuts)
from The Italian Baker by Carol Field

Makes two 9 X 5-inch loaves (or more!)

1 1/4cups (300 grams) walnut pieces, toasted
3 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast or 1 1/2 small cakes (27 grams) fresh
1/4 cup warm water
3 cups water, room temperature
3 3/4 cups (500 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups (125 grams) oat flour or finely ground rolled oats
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (125 grams) rye flour
1 cup less 1 tablespoon (125 grams) whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup (125 grams) brown rice flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (20 grams) salt

Toast the walnuts for 10 minutes in a 400° F oven; then chop in a food processor fitted with the steel blade or with a sharp knife to the size of a fat rice kernel. Do not grind them finely.

By Hand:
Stir the yeast into the warm water in a large mixing bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in 3 cups water. Mix the walnuts, flours, and salt and stir 2 cups at a time into the dissolved yeast, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. The dough should come together easily. Knead on a floured surface, sprinkling with additional all-purpose flour as needed, until firm, elastic, and no longer sticky, 8 to 10 minutes.

By Stand Mixer:
Stir the yeast into the warm water in a mixer bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in 3 cups water. Stir in the flours, walnuts, and salt with the paddle. Mix until the dough comes together. Change to the dough hook and knead for 3 to 4 minutes at medium speed until firm and elastic but still slightly sticky. Finish kneading briefly by hand on a surface floured with all-purpose flour.

By Processor:
Make sure your food processor can handle the volume of this dough. Even when done in 2 batches, there will be 4 cups flour to be processed. Stir the yeast into the warm water in a small bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Place the flours and salt in a food processor fitted with the dough blade and process with several pulses to sift. With the machine running, pour the dissolved yeast and 3 cups cold water through the feed tube as quickly as the flours can absorb it; process until the dough gathers into a ball. Process 40 seconds longer to knead. Knead in the walnuts by hand on a surface floured with all-purpose flour.

All methods of dough making follow the remaining process:

First Rise: Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Shaping and Second Rise: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. The dough should be moist, firm, and noticeably elastic, if slightly sticky. Cut the dough in half and shape each half into an oval loaf to fit a loaf pan. Place the loaves in the oiled pans (preferably glass), cover with a heavy towel, and let rise until truly doubled and fully above the tops of the pans, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Baking: Heat oven to 400° F. Slash a pattern in the top of the loaves. One baker in Milan cuts the shape of a stalk of grain on the top; elsewhere bakers make 3 parallel slashes. Bake 40 to 45 minutes; bake the last 5 to 10 minutes out of the pans on a baking stone or baking sheet to brown the bottoms and sides. Cool completely on a rack.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hello?! Is Anyone Home?!

Um, remember last week when I said I "thought" I might not have to work the crazy hours I have been working the past few weeks?

Yea, well I lied. Now for some good news and some bad news...

Good news is it is a long weekend this weekend and the office is closed on Monday.

Bad news is I am working for part of it.

Good news is that I've made time to actually come home at dinner and cook to the Cookbook Casting Call menu for this week.

Bad news is I've gone back to work after dinner and haven't had time to post about the food.

Good news is I'm taking tomorrow off to play in the city for a bit.

Bad news is I was trying to get away for the weekend and had to cancel my plans.

Good news is I'm working at home on Monday instead of the office and I'm baking up a storm between sessions at the laptop.

Meaning more good news for the folks in the office on Tuesday when I get to do this 60 hour week all over again.

I'm not making any promises about not working as much next week this time but I think...

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging: What IS that noise?!

I was getting ready to go into NYC this afternoon to see my all time favorite movie, The Women

Movie Poster Image: The Women

(The one and true version, the 1939 with Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, and Norma Shearer, not that God awful remake from last summer)

The Women: Norma, Joan, and Rosalind in their stunning glory

on the big screen at Symphony Space when I heard what I thought was someone having problems with a chain saw coming from the back yard.

When I went to investigate I found LB curled up on his blanket on the bed

LB's Imitation of a Pillbug

doing his best impersonation of a pillbug and discovered the noise wasn't a chain saw at all but my beloved cat snoring!

Very appropriate that it would be my cat making all that noise on the day I am going to see the movie all about "cat fights"

The Women: Cat fight!!

with a great reference to a kennel.

The Women: Ladies Lounge

Weekend Cat Blogging is being hosted this weekend by our friends, Mr. Tigger and the M-Cats Club.

There's still time to have your cat make an appearance at WCB this weekend and if he/she snores likes LB, then it shouldn't be too hard to find them in the house!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Cookbook Casting Call: Report Card for The New Basics and A New Week's Book and Menu

When last we saw our intrepid hero she was buried under several tons of blueprints...And basically she still is but decided all work and no play makes Jill a very dull girl so she's taking the weekend off before jumping back into fray.

Since we took a small break last week from the Cookbook Casting Call, let me refresh your memory about the book we were looking at two weeks ago. Our cookbook that week was The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

Cookbook Casting Call Week 3 Book: The New Basics Cookbook

This is the follow up cookbook to their highly successful Silver Palate series. This was our proposed menu for that week:

Menu for 1/25 - 1/31: Week Three of the Cookbook Casting Call and Winter Pantry Plan

Sunday 1/25:
Dinner: Tuscan Pork Chops* with Savory Mashed Turnips (From McCall's Coast-To-Coast Cooking )
Dessert: Kay's Cookies* with Vanilla Ice Cream

Monday 1/26:
Lunch: Tuna Salad with Grapes & Eggs*
Dinner: Cream of Tomato Risotto* with Garlic Toast

Tuesday 1/27:
Lunch: Leftover Risotto with leftover rotisserie chicken (in freezer)
Dinner: Market Street Meat Loaf*
Dessert: Blueberry, Raspberry, and Strawberry Cobbler*

Wednesday 1/28:
Lunch: Leftover Tuna Salad with Grapes & Eggs on a bed of spinach
Dinner: Tuscan Chicken* with Marinated Mushroom Salad (From McCall's Family-Style Cookbook ) and Wartime Wednesday Oatmeal Bread.

Thursday 1/29:
Lunch: Leftovers - Meat Loaf Sandwich with Marinated Mushroom Salad
Dinner: Thrifty Thursday - Oven Baked Chicken Hash (From 1959 Good Housekeeping Cookbook) with Stracciatella*

Friday 1/30:
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Movie Night Out with Friends

Saturday 1/31:
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Baked Winter Squash Soup* with Julia's baguette

There were a few changes mid-week as my work schedule ramped up. Tuesday's Market Street Meat Loaf became the Not So Sloppy Joe

Not So Sloppy Joes from The New Basics

mostly because I only remembered to pull the ground pork out of the freezer and not the ground beef. I have to say, I was quite impressed with the taste of these and the use of ground pork. I'm a sucker for sloppy joes. I can't wait to try this recipe with ground turkey or chicken.

Another change was the Tuscan Chicken became an adaption Bobbie's Chicken

Bobbie's Chicken from The New Basics

with a boneless chicken breast instead of a whole chicken.

Part of this change was after having the Tuscan Pork Chops earlier in the week, I wasn't ready for a return to the same flavors. A huge part of this change was getting home from the office after 7pm that evening and wanting something quick to make versus a bit more involved.

All in all, I would rate my week with the two ladies from the Silver Palate as a B.

A few dishes were solid A's: the aforementioned Bobbie's Chicken and Not So Sloppy Joe along with the really fantastic Blueberry, Raspberry, and Strawberry Cobbler.

Blueberry, Raspberry, and Strawberry Cobbler from The New Basics

But I found a lot of the recipes I tried and looked at to be pretty single note with a heavy emphasis on the use of rosemary, balsamic vinegar, and thyme and of Tuscan this and that. Maybe that is because the book is a snapshot of it's time, the late 80's and early 90's, when American cooks were discovering there was more to Italy than pasta and sauce and there were other vinegars besides white and cider. I don't know but I know that I would like a bit more variety when it comes to flavors than these and that was the main reason I gave the book a B.

I did pretty good that week on the Winter Pantry Plan; spending a little more than I would have liked to get some fresh herbs and some frozen raspberries and strawberries for the cobbler (I thought I had some in the freezer but found I had used them already.) My grocery total for that week was $23.61.

Which brings the grand total so far since I started both the Cookbook Casting Call and the Winter Pantry Plan to $56.25 spent on groceries since January 11, 2009. That means, on average, I'm spending about $14.00 a week on groceries. A bit higher than the Summer Pantry Plan average but I'm not upset seeing how I'm not able to take advantage of the summer garden. Now, on to this week's cookbook!

This week we are cooking from Mark Bittman's original How To Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food.

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

I've already previewed this cookbook earlier in the Cookbook Casting Call with those fantastic roasted root veggies which you can see the left overs of in the picture of the adapted Bobbie's Chicken.

So, I'm really looking forward to this week's menu!

Menu for 2/8 - 2/13 - Week Four of the Cookbook Casting Call and Winter Pantry Plan: How to Cook Everything

Like always, item's marked with "*" are from this week's cookbook

Sunday 2/8:

Dinner: Movie night in NYC with Friends
Dessert: Bread Pudding* with Vanilla Ice Cream

Monday 2/9:
Lunch: Simple Greek Salad*
Dinner: Smoky Slow Cooker Chili (from Jan/Feb 2009 Cooking Light) with Corn Bread*

Tuesday 2/10:
Lunch: Chili and corn bread
Dinner: Pan Seared Steak with Red Wine Sauce* and Fastest Yeast Bread* (I'll be the judge of that!)
Dessert: left over bread pudding

Wednesday 2/11:
Lunch: Chili and corn bread
Dinner: Cumin Scented Rice*, Crab Cakes*, and Wartime Wednesday Honey Gingerbread

Thursday 2/12:
Lunch: Leftover rice mixed with crab cake and salad
Dinner: Pasta with Porcini*

Friday 2/13:
Lunch: Leftover pasta
Dinner: Out of town for the weekend!

Baked Ginger Mustard Boneless Chicken Breast
adapated from Bobbie's Chicken from The New Basics Cookbook

Serves 2

2 boneless chicken breasts, with tenderloin and excess fat removed
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4 lemon, wedged
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock

Pre-heat oven on 375 degrees and lightly grease a square baking pan with 1 tsp olive oil.

Rise chicken breast and pat dry with paper towel and set aside. In quart size sealing plastic bag, combine dry mustard, ginger, thyme, salt and pepper. Place chicken breasts into bag, seal and shake to coat the chicken breasts.

Layer the bottom of the prepared baking pan with the onions. Place the seasoned chicken breasts on top of the onions. Squeeze one wedge of lemon on top of each chicken breast. Add chicken stock to pan and cover pan with foil.

Bake in oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and let bake for another 5 minutes or until chicken breast is done.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I'm Not Dead....

yet. But it sure feels like it!

Still working those God awful hours so there isn't a whole lotta cooking going on right now. Thank goodness Whole Foods is open late and keep their salad bar fresh at all hours of the day.

We're going to delay this week's planned cookbook for the Cookbook Casting Call one week. With a little luck and if AutoCRASH (aka AutoCAD) will behave it's self, I should be back to normal working hours next week.

Until then, enjoy this little gem of a scene from my favorite Monty Python movie, The Holy Grail. I know just how he feels...