No-Knead Rustic Bread

No-Knead Rustic BreadStill We Rise
I struggled with bread making for years. It was only in the last few that I figured it all out. Since then I have mastered a couple of recipes, Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread and Hearty White Sandwich Bread. And, have experimented with others with a decent amount of success. Lately, since I seem to have a little more time on the weekends, I have branched out to make some of the harder stuff. And, by harder I mean those beautiful crusty loaves that you would normally purchase from people who know what they are doing.

The most difficult thing about baking bread right now is finding the flour and even the yeast. I was fortunate to be able to order a 10# bag from the King Arthur website but I had to keep checking to see if they had stock before I got lucky. I will say that we have been able to get some flour in here at the store, though it’s been spotty. (But, it’s getting a little better.) Yeast is a different issue. The good news is thousands of years of bread making on this planet have taught us that you don’t need foil packets of yeast to make bread. It’s in the wild, man…

There have been a number of recipes popping up that require using “wild yeast” which for all intents and purposes means making a “starter”. The most obvious example is a sourdough starter. I have mostly tried to avoid making sourdough during my bread making journey because of the requirement of using a starter. Starters can be labor-intensive. They require daily feeding to keep them active. It can take over your life and become a real chore if you have an active calendar. As my calendar has become less active in recent weeks, I was working up the courage to start the process but I was saved by a friend of mine who not only dropped of a tasty loaf of her rosemary sourdough but some of her starter as well. This is a common practice amongst sourdough bakers. You gotta do something with the “discard” so why not dispense it to your friends? You can only make sourdough waffles so many times…

Because I am unable to share my starter with all of you I am sharing a few recipes for your viewing pleasure. The first is a fairly basic recipe for a rustic sourdough. Please note it does use packaged yeast as well as starter. And here are instructions for how to get your started going. If you are unable to get yeast, I encourage you to do a little research about natural yeast. (The King Arthur Learn section of their website is great.) Yeast from dried fruit is a very old but effective method of baking bread and might be a good option. ( It’s also a great science lesson for your kids.)

The recipe below is a fantastic peasant bread for those who want crusty loaf but aren’t big into sourdough. I made this one last weekend and it was so tasty. Also, remember that these recipes and ideas require time. Good news is, right now, we have that time…

No-Knead Rustic Bread
Adapted from the Food Network
Yields 8 servings Read more…

Mini Frittatas

Mini FrittatasEasy Like Christmas Morning
Christmas morning is a time of magic, wonder, and barely-controlled chaos. Sometimes it can be a challenge just to get the coffee pot going. Though for most people, that is priority one especially if your children woke you at the crack of dawn because they just couldn’t stand it anymore.

By the way, this doesn’t end just because they hit their teenage years. Mine still do it. It’s harder to have the family snuggle in our bed though when the 15 year olds are both 6 feet tall or above…but they still try!

Making breakfast amongst all of this activity can be difficult. For one, there are too many excited people running around in your kitchen. At least that is how it is for me. For another, who wants to be in the kitchen all morning and miss out on all of the fun. Lastly, sometimes you just don’t think about it until the last minute. In the rush to make sure you have gifts for everyone including the dog, forgetting that your family would like to eat breakfast has been known to happen. Something easy and tasty for Christmas morning with ingredients you probably have on hand is the answer.

Sure you could go the tried and true pancakes or waffles route. Those are always a hit. Personally, I like these little guys listed below. They’re quick and easy and you can pretty much put whatever you have on hand in them. No ham? No worries. How ‘bout a little jack cheese and chilies? Or sausage? Or diced green onion and red pepper? No matter what you decide to put in them, you could easily serve them alongside the pancakes and waffles. Because it’s Christmas…you get to live a little and have both…

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Mini Frittatas
Adapted from Giada De Laurentis and the Food Network
Yields servings
Read more…

Amy’s Hummus

Amy's HummusTo eat, or not to eat? 
The decision on whether to eat before Thanksgiving or not is a difficult one. Breakfast is a no-brainer if only for the coffee infusion. I mean how’re ya gonna handle the semi-controlled chaos of Thanksgiving without a strong cup o’ joe? It’s the hours after breakfast and before the main event that can be difficult to navigate calorie-wise.

The decision to eat or not to eat is incredibly personal. There are a number of issues to consider, the first one being what time will you be eating your Thanksgiving meal? The later you eat, the more the challenge. Some see it as blasphemous to eat anything other than Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving. If it ain’t a bird and sweet potatoes, it ain’t goin’ in their mouth. And still, others don’t want to eat anything so that when the time comes, they are ensured of the maximum amount of room to fit all of their favorites. My son is this person. He can eat a frightening amount on any given day but Thanksgiving is a source of pride for him. He weighs himself before and after the meal. There’s this whole ceremony… It’s weird, but I still love him.

Personally, I have to have something to tide me over or risk getting a headache. It doesn’t have to be a big meal it just has to be something grab and go that I can snack on from time to time. This is why I like to make my homemade hummus and serve it with cut veggies. It’s a healthy snack and gets a few more veggies in you before the wave of carbs hits your plate. It’s quick to make the day before and you can put it out on a platter for the rest of the folks. Then you can walk away to attend to the cooking while the rest of ‘em watch football or calibrate the bathroom scale or whatever!

No matter what you choose, to nosh or not, have a very happy Thanksgiving and a magical holiday season.

Amy’s Hummus Recipe
Yields about 3 cups
Read more…

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Pumpkin Whoopie PiesPumpkin Perspective
Halloween is here and I am just not feeling the Halloween spirit. I’m thinking that it’s because our priorities are focused elsewhere this week. Maybe it’s because most of the Bay Area is worried about having power or, worse if their house is still standing. It’s probably more important to have candles to see at night versus candles to put in your pumpkin. I’m just sayin’.

It is kind of a bummer, though. I actually had plans to make fun treats and dress up like I usually do. But, I no longer have the will nor the energy. This past weekend wore me down mentally. At one point there was fire 4 miles to the south of me and fire 3 miles to the west of me with air tankers overhead. With those ridiculous winds, you just didn’t know where it was going to pop up next. It’s the unpredictability that drives you nuts. Thankfully, my home was not threatened but I got a tiny taste of what they are going through in Healdsburg and the surrounding areas. My heart goes out to everyone. I can’t even imagine the stress and heartbreak…

I may still try to make the Whoopie Pies that I had planned on because, you know, stress eating. Whoopie Pies, I have been told, are an East Coast thing. I love them—though I couldn’t tell you where I was the first time I tried one. The traditional version features a chocolatey cakey cookie that is filled with vanilla-flavored cream. Kinda like a giant, soft Oreo. The recipe I was planning to make for Halloween have pumpkin cakes with a cream cheese filling. Anything with cream cheese filling is a winner in my book. And, I have made these before and I know how good they taste.

Here’s hoping conditions improve and the fires can be put out quickly. In the meantime, if you have the will and you have the power, give these treats a go. I am fairly confident they will improve anyone’s mood.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields 1 dozen 4-inch Whoopie Pies Read more…