Thursday, June 30, 2011

Easy Sesame Hamburger Buns

Things will get real mundane if you let them. Stale. Boring. Dull. Blah. It is the cold hard truth and something I fear. This healthy fear of becoming complacent keeps me motivated and mindful.

Marriages fail because of the mundane. The new car smell wears off, bodies age, people stop communicating, people stop trying, people think the grass is greener in other pastures. I am no expert in relationships, my marriage takes work and I know this, we know this. Wanting success and being willing to put effort forth in a marriage is worth its weight in gold. We all must try, try to be better not blah. In my short time here in the "adult" world of marriage I have seen too many partnerships crumble, self-destructing by failure of committing to the long term.

Enough with the serious stuff already - it is summer folks, the easiest time to have fun and be care free.

I am here to spice up your life with countless carbohydrates, cookies and cocktails!

It is time to be happy and mow down countless burgers and beverages.

Jump on board!

The backyard BBQs can get a bit predictable come September, they are still wonderful and fun but don't get the grilling blahs and make the same three things during the precious summer months. Change it up, keep it interesting.

Try lamb burgers, grilled strawberry shortcake skewered with rosemary twigs!, sip on a personal pint sized sangria next time you have a handful of friends over, grill up a flat bread, or try a creative and healthy version of macaroni salad.

Better yet slide a lamb burger onto a homemade hamburger bun. SNAP!

Don't run, please don't be intimidated.

Carbs can be friendly.

You have made it this far, you know I am far from a skilled baker, I have taught myself to bake and if I can - you can do it! I am not going to convince you to work at your marriage or to get over your fear of yeast but I am going to emphasize that you can't judge until you have tried. Try to be competent. Competence is making something that won't kill you by eating it. You will trip through a minefield of variables, coming out the other side with something close to magnificent. Satisfaction in genuine effort. It does not matter if you make seven loaves a week, have perfected croissants and puff pastry, if you have made a dozen different yeasted recipes and seem to be lucky or just bought your first package of yeast and are willing to get your hands dusty with flour. What matters most are your hands trying and working together in the process.

Easy Sesame Hamburger Buns

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes 8 buns, depending on size  

For best results (a smooth, slightly soft dough), use the smaller amount of water in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate); and something in between the rest of the time.

3/4 to 1 cup lukewarm water

1 tablespoon instant yeast

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 large egg

3 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 egg white

sesame seeds


Mix warm water and yeast in a large mixing bowl. In a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, slowly incorporate the remaining dough ingredients. Continue mixing dough until the dough is soft and smooth.
Cover the dough, and let it rise in a warm spot for 1 to 2 hours, or until it's nearly doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. At this point I get out the kitchen scale and make sure each of the dough balls are the same size. Shape each piece into a round ball; flatten to about 3" across. Place the buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until noticeably puffy. Thirty minutes into the final rise preheat the oven to 375°F.

Brush the buns with egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake the buns in the preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden. Remove them from the oven.

Cool the buns on a rack.




Shared with YeastSpotting!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Slow like Snail

Slow. Snail slow. Snail mail slow.

Sometimes waiting is the hardest part. Waiting in traffic, waiting for the coffee to percolate, waiting for vacation, waiting for a life changing email, waiting for the next big adventure. Things move slow and are often beyond the reach of control. Control is comforting. I am by no stretch of the imagination a control freak but I do have a hard time being patient.

There is just so many great things in the works right now in our lives. I can hardly contain myself with excitement. Our hopper is full and we are about to crack it wide open.  Our future is increadibley promising and as much as I would like to move on I need to realize and embrace the fact that I am here in the desert now with free time that I need to utilize to the fullest. I need to make myself a better person today to ensure that tomorrow is just as great. I need to get our present ducks in a row to make life simplier in the coming months.

In life there is always room for improvement, forward movement with every experience, growth with every mistake. Life is not perfect, there is a wrinkle in every plan, there is a hole in every dam, there is a crack in well used armor. I like to think of this as the human element, life. At the end of the day, when the head hits the pillow and soft bed holds my weight, the weight that I have carried with me the entire day all I want to know is that I tried hard at what ever I engaged in with the few precious hours I was gifted that day.


Life doesn't always go as planned. If you take a successful business as an example, they are successful for two reasons. These two reasons can be applied to the business of living, the day to day activities that fill our hour. Success thrives with a plan. A goal is a healthy means to create more ambition that often gets sucked by the mundane tasks that fill our time. Have a plan. Have a plan that is open and encourages change. Stick with me, a plan is wonderful and incredibly useful but plan for that plan to change. Nothing goes as planned. There is growth and learning, accidents and failures, the human element. Accept change and adapt your plan accordingly. Be open to change. With these two ideas working together, leading a meaningful life is just that much easier.

Personally I need a plan or else I get too excited about one particular thing that I often miss the forest for the tree. I need a plan to create focus in my life that seems to be lacking cohesiveness and direction. I am a work in progress, my plan is a work in progress and I am accepting the changes that are occurring. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies - The Mother Truckers

Peanut butter meets brownies topped with chocolate - Meet the mother trucker brownies.

Weekends that go by too fast - Mother Trucker! Why do they have to end?

Real jobs - Mother Trucker! What time suck.

Two too many cocktails - Mother Trucker, bad idea.

Finding a few more gray hairs - Mother Trucker! Is this really happening?

I know it is swim suit season and all but sometimes life is just a mother trucker and calls for brownies that pack a punch.

Brownies that keep their junk in their trunk.

There are job interviews, cats that scratch perfectly nice furniture, dirty dishes, folding laundry, an obscenely fat cat that likes to lay on your chest and stare at your mouth and lick ears, bills, decisions, uncertainty, cats.

Then there are mother trucker brownies and life just seems to make sense.

Brownies that have all of life's little naughtiness including chocolate, more chocolate, peanut butter, sugar, more butter, more chocolate. 

Pretzels on brownies, mother trucking brilliant!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies (The Mother Truckers)

Adapted from Deb at Smitten Kitchen via Butterwood Desserts, West Falls, New York via Gourmet, October 2007

Makes about 32 brownies, depending on how small you cut them.

For brownies
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup creamy almond butter
2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
1teaspoon salt

For ganache
1 1/2 cups d chocolate chips dark
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Make brownies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in middle.

In a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan, then line bottom of pan with parchment paper and butter parchment.

Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until mixture is light, white and fluffy, add peanut butter and beat until incorporated.

Beat in whole eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla. Reduce mixer sped to low, then mix in flour until just combined.

Mix in chocolate chips then spread batter in baking pan, smoothing out the thick batter.

Bake until brownies are deep golden and a wooden pick inserted in center come out with some crumbs adhering, 40 to 45 minutes.

Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

Make ganache:

Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat.  Pour chocolate chips into cream and let mixture stand for one minute.

Whisk in butter until it is incorporated, chocolate is melted, and a smooth mixture forms.

Spread ganache on cooled brownies and let stand until set, about 15 minutes.

Brownies keep in one layer in an airtight container three days or can be stored tightly wrapped in the freezer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gluten-Free Irish Soda Bread for Bread Baking Babes

Summer is here.

Let me repeat: SUMMER IS HERE!

This being the longest day of the year, I wish you a wonderful solstice and a beautiful summer filled with Popsicles, large bodies of water, potlucks and most importantly happiness.

Gather the troops, your trusty friends, make a summer of fun. Reach out making new friends, become closer with the ones that you have and cherish. Spend the summer cracking jokes, laughing as hard and as often as you can, going for walks, getting on bikes and rolling to the nearest ice cream shop.

Eat ice cream and laugh all summer.

Summer is a time spend outside, grass between your toes, sun on your face, a breeze in your hair, friends never a far reach. Fire up the grill, keeping it simple, don't fuss over food or fuss over the food but please don't stress over the food.

This simple soda bread is the perfect loaf to tuck into a picnic basket and toted to the park. In the picnic basket toss in a bottle of crisp white wine, a wedge of salami, wheel of your favorite soft cheese or cool butter mixed with fresh herbs and make an afternoon seem like paradise. Spread a soft blanket at the base of a tree, spread a few napkins across your legs and arrange the contents of the picnic basket within an arms reach. Pour a little wine into a tumbler. Lay on your back and take a few deep breaths and remember that everything is okay. Close your eyes and relax. Get lost in conversation and taken away by the simple act of spreading butter on bread.

This bread really is not that crumbly and actually has great texture that holds together with a light crumb. I honestly got hungry and sliced into the loaf before it cooled. My bad. It smelled too good. This happens.

Gluten-Free Soda Bread with Herbs

 Recipe via Lucullian Delights from The Ballymaloe Bread Book by Tim Allen

I use Bob Red Mill's all purpose gluten-free baking flour for gluten-free baking, it has not yet let me down. In a loaf like this that does not require yeast, I weigh gram for gram the GF flour replacing the traditional all purpose white flour. With the GF flour, the amount of liquid varies, I used too much milk and had a very runny loaf and had to bake it in a skillet. It sill tasted great but next time add only half the requested milk and add more from there. Do not over mix, you will be very disappointed.

1 loaf

450 g/1lb Gluten-Free AP Flour (or plain white four)
1 level teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon bread soda, finely sieved
1 dessert spoon each of rosemary, sage and chives, all freshly chopped
400 ml/ 14 fl oz buttermilk

Heat up the oven to 230 degrees C/450 degrees F

Sieve the flour, salt and bread soda into a large, wide mixing bowl. Add the freshly chopped herbs to the dry ingredients.

Make a well in the center. Pour most of the milk into the flour. Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle drawing in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky.

The trick with all soda breads is not to over-mix the dough. Mix the dough as quickly and as gently as possible, keeping it really light and airy. When the dough comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands.

Gently roll the ball of dough around with floury hands for a few seconds, just enough to tidy up. Then pat it gently into a round, about 5 cm/2 in high.

Place the dough on a lightly floured baking sheet. With a sharp knife cut a deep cross in the middle of it, letting the cuts go over the sides of the bread. Then prick the four triangles with your knife: according to Irish folklore this will let the fairies out!

Put this into your preheated oven for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F for a further 25 minutes, or until cooked. When the bread is cooked it will sound hollow when tapped.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cookies for Father's Day

These feet are headed west. 

Those toes are going home.

Grads and Dads.

Beer gardens. Live music.

Mountain bikes. 


My Dad is picking as much rhubarb that can fit my car. 

I love my Dad and his green thumb.
I kind of look like my Dad.

Happy Father's Day to you Dad.

I could not be prouder to call you my Dad.

Go make some cookies for your Dad.

I have never met a Dad that will pass up cookies, if they do I think mine will eat their share and then some.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cheese Grits with Asparagus and Spring Onions

I have been thinking about Texas a lot lately. Father's Day is closing in on the horizon and I would love to spend it deep in the heart of Texas with the world's greatest father in law.

I want to go see family, eat fried okra, go fishing, explore Austin again, devour tomatoes, pretend that I will meet Guy Clark at the local bar.

Totally normal things for a girl to be dreaming about.

I want to drink a cold Shiner Bock while sitting on a porch swing with scruffy country dogs curled up at my feet panting, exhausted from the heat.

People wave to each other on dusty country roads in the south. They really do wave while driving. It is like a breath of fresh air. Friendly strangers, God bless them.

There are cowboy hats, bouffants, fire flies and big open skies that I can't find in Washington.

I want to eat Tex Mex until my eyes go crossed.

I want J to wake me up in the late hours of the night to watch a lightening storm from the bedroom window.

Until our lives settle down a bit we have to make our own Texas here in Washington. Cheesy grits will have to hold me over until we can take our time visiting the south.

I can eat my weight in cheesy grits, I know I will be just fine when the buttery fried egg hits the mound of grits. Comfort food. John Prine and Guy Clark are always on the play list, a bit of Texas to hold me over.

Cheese Grits with Asparagus and Spring Onions
serves four, or 3 servings for me and 1 for J.

4 cups water
1 cup stone ground grits (also known as polenta)
salt and pepper
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 pound asparagus spears, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup thinly sliced spring onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
Fresh juice from 1 lemon

Optional (not really):

4 fried eggs
Slices of tomato
Butter four bowls and set aside.

Bring water to a boil.  Add grits to the boiling water while whisking to prevent clumps.  Add a bit of salt and pepper.  Lower heat, bring to simmer and cover until water is absorbed.  Follow the directions on your box of grits or polenta.  Cooking times vary.  Once thick, remove from heat and stir in butter and shredded cheese. Divide the grits among four buttered bowls and set aside.
In a (cast iron) skillet over medium heat brown onions and garlic with a pat of butter.  Add the chopped asparagus and another pat of butter to the onions and cook until the asparagus turns a bright green, this should take only a few minutes and the asparagus should still have a crunch. Remove the pan from the heat.

The grits in the bowls should now be set, turn each bowl so the grits slide onto a plate, creating a "dome of grits". Top each serving of grits with a pile of asparagus and onions. Squeeze a lemon over top of each one.

Fry a couple eggs if you desire and place a fried egg on top. Enjoy a few slices tomato tucked between bites. 
Serve immediately.