Friday, September 24, 2010

Fall Weather Arrives

Actually fall arrived here Wednesday and announced its presence with 24 hours of rain, almost 3 inches in our rain gauge. There has been serious flooding in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Today it the rain has stopped but it is cooler and windy. Definitely time for soup!!!

Here's recipes that is easy to make and bursting with healthy lentils and savory fall vegetables. I've also used chopped ham instead of the sausage. Add a little sherry and you'll feel warm and toasty for sure.

Lentil Sausage Soup

Serves 6 to 8

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 leek, cleaned and chopped
1 ½ cups lentils
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. pepper
5 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 to 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
½ lb. diced kielbasa or smoked sausage

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven and add the onion, celery, carrots and leek. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste, thyme, salt, pepper, chicken broth and water. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover partially, reduce heat to low and simmer 30 to 40 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

Add the kielbasa and simmer 10 minutes. Season to taste. Stir in vinegar. Adjust seasoning.

Add sherry to the soup when serving, if desired.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Baking with Yeast

Since I posted two recipes recently using active dry yeast I thought it would be helpful to talk about yeast and yeast breads. I have always loved bread and enjoyed making it. It actually doesn't require a lot of active time. Once the dough is made, you need a few minutes to shape it. After it rises a second time, it's time to bake.

Using my Kitchen Aid mixer to knead the dough makes the whole process even easier. After making the dough I switch to the dough hook and "knead" the dough about 3 minutes. After this, I place the dough on a lightly floured counter and knead it a minute or two. When it is smooth and elastic it's ready for rising.

Here's some info on yeast!

The most important step in baking yeast breads is using the proper temperature of water to activate the yeast. Because yeast is a living organism, it is easily killed by excess heat. When adding yeast directly to warm water, the water temperature should be between 105 and 115 degrees F. Use a thermometer to measure the water temperature to insure that the yeast is not killed.

Test warm tap water by sprinkling a few drops on the inside of your wrist. If it feels warm to you it is a perfect temperature for yeast. Adding warm water to yeast is called proofing because the yeast will begin to grow and produce gas “proving” that the yeast is alive. After opening yeast, store any remaining in the refrigerator and use by the date indicated on the package. Yeast past its expiration date won’t produce gas to leaven the dough.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Thoughtful Eating

The USDA Food Pyramid has always been criticized because it isn't easy to use. In 2010 new Diet Guidelines for Americans is being published. Will this be more successful? We have to wait and see.

The number one nutritional concern in the U.S. today is obesity. And the best way to decrease this serious health risk is through diet. I read an article on the Nourish Network about topics that are included in the new recommendations.

Some of the topics that part of the discussion include:

Plant based diets need to become everyday diets- this means eating more vegetables, fruit, whole grains and nuts.

Two servings of seafood should be consumed each week. Low fat and fat-free milk products are important dietary components.

Decrease consumption of meat, poultry and eggs.

Eat attentively. Carefully consider what you are consuming.

Learn to cook. By preparing food at home, fat, portion sizes and content are within your control. Does this mean "Home Ec" will be back in the schools? It should never have been dropped.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Crash Night"

When my kids were younger we'd have crash night on Fridays when we weren't off to other activities. that meant pizza and movies. Here's a recipe from Baking Basics and Beyond for a simple and great pizza crust. You your favorite toppings or those below. .

Basic Pizza

Homemade crust makes “pizza night’ an occasion the whole family will look forward to. Spread the sauce on the pre-baked crust and let everyone choose his or her own toppings. When I only need one pizza, I pre-bake the second crust and freeze it. With a crust from the freezer, homemade pizza arrives faster than delivery!

MAKES 2 (12-inch) PIZZAS

basic pizza Crust
1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105–115°F)
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 (15-ounce) can pizza sauce
2–3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
�Pizza toppings: cooked Italian sausage, chopped green peppers, sliced mushrooms, olives, etc.

basic pizza Crust
Sprinkle yeast over warm water in small bowl and let stand about 5 minutes. Combine 2 1/2 cups flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Stir in yeast mixture and olive oil. Continue stirring until flour is absorbed. Stir in remaining flour until a soft dough is formed. Dough will be sticky to start with, but after kneading it becomes easier to handle.
Place dough on well-floured surface and shape it into a ball. Place your fingers on top of dough ball, curled slightly, and pull dough toward you; then push it away, using palms of your hands. Turn dough 1/4 turn and repeat. Knead dough 6 to 8 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.
To judge whether dough has been sufficiently kneaded, place it on work surface, pull both ends gently, and release. Dough should be elastic and spring back. Little blisters of air should be visible just under the surface.
If dough is sticky, gradually add flour while kneading. Do not use more than 3 cups flour, total. Shape dough into a ball by pulling sides underneath forming a smooth top. Cover dough and let it rest while you prepare toppings. I just invert a bowl over the dough for this short rest.
Heat oven to 450°F. For crispest crust, place rack toward bottom of oven.
Grease two 12-inch pizza pans. Leave about 1 inch around edge of each pan ungreased so dough has something to cling to as it is stretched to fill pan. Place half of dough in center of each pan, and push it out to pan edges, rotating pan as you go. Form a raised edge around the crust’s perimeter.
Bake crusts 7 to 10 minutes or until they are just beginning to brown. Remove from oven. (The crusts can be frozen at this point. Cool to room temperature and wrap tightly before freezing.)

Spread 1 cup pizza sauce over each crust and add toppings. Sprinkle 1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese over each pizza. Bake 7 to 10 minutes longer until cheese is melted and crust is browned. Cool slightly before cutting.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

It's Football Season!

We left town for the Labor Day Weekend and came home to fall. Certainly seems like summer left our area. But I love fall for the cool days and nights, colorful falling leaves and football.

Here's a recipe that makes a great snack for halftime or make it dinner by adding a salad. The Stromboli recipe is fromBaking Basics and Beyond.


Stromboli is another family favorite, and that’s why I’ve included this recipe. I don’t put pizza sauce inside so the meat and cheese flavors will predominate. I’ve served this for dinner, but it makes a popular snack when everyone is gathered for the big game. You can use various deli meats and cheeses and add olives or hot peppers—just don’t fill the stromboli too full. Provolone, a mild Italian cheese with a smoky flavor, is perfect here.


Basic pizza crust (make your own or use refrigerated or frozen)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 pound sliced pepperoni
1/4 pound sliced hard salami
4 ounces Provolone cheese, sliced or shredded
1 egg, beaten
Grated Parmesan cheese
Marinara sauce

Heat oven to 400°F with rack in lower third. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.
Place dough on lightly floured surface and roll out to a 15 x 12-inch rectangle. If dough becomes difficult to roll, let is rest briefly.
Brush dough with olive oil. Arrange pepperoni, salami, and Provolone cheese down center of dough. Fold both sides toward the center and pinch together to seal. Brush egg over top of dough. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and place on prepared cookie sheet. The easiest way to lift the dough is with large metal spatulas at each end. Cut several slits into dough.
Beat 30 to 35 minutes or until stromboli are well browned. Cool slightly before slicing. Serve with pizza or marinara sauce for dipping.

BAKER’S NOTE: Cover the baking sheet with a silicone baking mat for easy clean-up since leaks do occur.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

CSAs- Sources of Best Local Produce

This is the best time of year to be in a CSA (community supported agriculture). Tomato plants are bending under the weight of ripening tomatoes and basil plants are adding fragrance to the field. When we visited my daughter in Upstate New York in addition to the box they pick up every week, the farm also has "pick-your-own" that varies from week to week. My grandson loves to be outdoors and was very helpful picking yellow beans.

This weeks' box container Brussels' sprouts tops which were unknown to me. They are actually the leafy part of the plant and a dark green- attention: healthy!

Saturday morning we headed to the farm in the gently rolling countryside. Along the way we saw cows, alpacas and chickens. Also wind machines on top of the hills. As we left New York, the fragrance of fresh tomato sauce with basil was in the air and I knew we were leaving too soon!