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Bread: Take (6?)

I stopped counting. :)

I promised to break up with my Whole Foods Whole Wheat Flour. It is apparently super protein based (like 14%)!. (To compare, regular bread flour is about 12%, and specially marked “high gluten” flours are 14%. The Whole Foods brand was their Whole Wheat All Purpose flour.)

One of my first attempts was with unbleached white flour, which has far too low of a protein content. The dough was very watery. Still baked up a semi decent loaf, it just would not come off the parchment paper.

Using unbleached white flour (which is what you are supposed to use) makes a great dough. I do not really like the sourdough taste of the aged dough, so I try to use it quickly.

This attempt was my attempt to rescue my whole wheat flour. I used a mix of whole wheat (2.5 cups) to white flour (4 cups). I had to add an extra 1/2 of a cup to the recipe for it to work. (Check out the original recipe at Artisan Bread in Five.)

I cooked it in a loaf pan, without the rack, and it turned out great! The loaf pan leaves a less crispy crust, which is what I was looking for in this loaf (as I wanted to make PB&J and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.)

I am looking forward to trying other breads from their book(Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day), to see if I can find one that does not taste as sourdough after a few days.

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Salsa Verde

I spent two months in Mexico for a study abroad program. By the time I left, I was so sick of eggs and salsa verde that I did not eat them for a while. After I moved, and started on the current cooking craze, I wanted to try to make my own sauce. Luckily, if you can find the ingredients, salsa verde is pretty easy to make.

Jalapenos or Habaneros
Cilantro (if you want)

I tend to add about one pepper per 2-3 tomatillos, and this makes a VERY spicy salsa. You can always reduce the amount of peppers.

Remove the husks from the tomatillos, and rinse under water. They will be kinda sticky, but dont worry about it. Take the top off the jalapenos or habaneros (and, please, be careful! I did not pay attention one time and burned the corner of my eye with habanero juice! Ouch! You can use latex gloves if you are sensitive. I tend to just hack off the top and dump it into the water, so i never touch the inside.)

Bring a pot of water to boil, enough to cover the tomatillos and the peppers. Salt the water, and boil the tomatillos and peppers for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Reserving the boiling liquid, put tomatillos and peppers into a blender. (You can cool them first if you want). To the blender, add salt, a few cloves of garlic, and a quartered onion. Blend until smooth. (If this is warm, be careful, and be sure to vent the top of the blender).

At this point, you can add cream cheese and make the perfect sauce for enchiladas. Or you can use this salsa directly in cooking. Or, it makes an excellent spicy dip for chips, as an alternative to red salsas.


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Menu Planning

As I am on a limited budget, I am attempting to meal plan.

I attempted OAMC (Once a Month Cooking), but I found that I actually enjoy cooking, so I never used the stuff that was in the freezer. Now that I am in Brooklyn, and thus almost 45 minutes away from my school, I can see the practicality of having food available at home. If I know I can nuke something, it makes it less likely to get food to go in the city before coming home. So, I think my current strategy is to have smaller meals in the freezer, rather than large items, and to make plan overs rather than full freezer meals.

So, the meal plan for this week looks like this:

Monday (last night): Chinese takeout (finally found a decent one in the neighborhood).

Tuesday: Chicken Marsala. Will pick up Marsala wine on the way home, and mushrooms are being delivered.

Wednesday. Will put chicken thighs into the crock pot during the day, to have chicken meat available for Green Chicken Enchiladas. Will post recipe later this week. Will also post procedure for chicken meat and stock. (Very easy) :)

Thursday. Italian Sausage Spaghetti (with planned overs for lasagna.)

Friday. Leftovers :) Or fried rice. Or something, I havent decided yet.

Saturday. BBQ at a friends place :)

Sunday. Perhaps Tikka Masala

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Ah, Bread. The food that prompted me to start this blog.

I have attempted bread four times. The first three were whole wheat bread attempted. They never rose. Proofed the yeast, was following a whole wheat bread recipe, tried both the refrigerator kind and an actual kneading recipe. No dice.

I then tried the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day recipe, except I used bleached flour instead of unbleached flour. Which, had I used the actual book, I would have realized was 1) wrong, and 2) needed less water. I developed a bread dough that rose (yay!), but the dough was very wet, hard to work with, and sticky. I did bake a loaf in my dutch oven, however, the bottom burned. Other than that, it was amazing!

I do want to make my own bread. I don’t really eat bread all that much, so I want a cheaper way to make it than paying 2.50 a loaf or more. I do want to learn to make whole wheat bread, as I want it to be at least slightly healthier than white bread.

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Anatomy of My Cooking Mind

In this post, I shall discuss how I made: Instant Mashed Potatoes.

Not that this is some magical story, or the potatoes were amazing, or that I don’t have anything else to write about. But, as I was in the process of making these, I realized how it really summed up my typical cooking experience. So, enjoy :)

On the train home, I was hungry. I did the typically “Do I want to order out? No, I’m trying to save money. I have chicken at home that I can defrost and throw with pasta.”

I get home. Decide that defrosting chicken in water (because I have no microwave) is too much. I look in the freezer and I have corn. Mmm, corn and mashed potatoes, a starchy favorite.

I briefly read the back of the corn, and then just throw about half the box in with some water. I also found peas in the freezer, and threw them in as well. There was enough water to cover them, so I let them boil.

I realized that I threw away the packaging for the instant mashed potatoes, so I started an internet search for it. I found the PDF file from the government about Dehydrated Potatoes, which called for 2 cups of water, 3/4 cup of milk, and 2 cups of potatoes. I didn’t want 3 cups of potatoes, so I cut the recipe in half. Which involved interesting fractions in my head.

I also did not have milk, so I had to figure out how to get 8 oz of milk from my quart of dry milk powder packet. The outside box had no instructions, but the inside package said 5 heaping tablespoons would make 8oz of milk. Which works out to slightly less than 1/3rd of a cup.

Corn and peas are boiling and hot, so I drain them (using a pasta spork thing), and I place them in a boil with butter. I add garlic salt and pepper to the vegetables. Realize that I over salted the vegetables, and vow not to salt the potatoes until after mixing.

I put slightly less than two cups of water back into the same pot, and bring to a boil with a little bit of salt. I also grate about about 1/4 of cheese for the dish.

Water is boiling. I turn off the water, add the dry milk powder and stir, then add about a cup of instant mashed potatoes. And stir until it is not lumpy, and let it sit. Decide after two minutes that it is not thick enough, and add more potatoes, and stir.

Realize I have a huge pile of stuff, I decide to mix everything together and divide into two portions. Everything gets mixed, and the salt ratio events out nicely. Half the mixture goes into the fridge for tomorrow, the other half gets topped with cheese.

And, yum :)

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Lasagna Background

Today’s attempt will be lasagna.

Yeah, though, I have already made lasagna in the past.  And, its turned out pretty good.  Meat, tomato sauce, pasta, and cheese, it can be hard to mess up.

Though, I have messed it up in the past.  Typically, I make lasagna to freeze.  I used no boil noodles, which do not handle freezing and reheating well.  After eating crunchy noodle lasagna once, I always cook my noodles.

I think my best attempt was using marinated mozzarella as the middle layer.  It was excellent, and I must do that again sometime.

My secret is using Italian Sausage in my meat sauce.  I tend to use turkey Italian sausage, as it seems more healthy than pork sausage.  Then again, I used pork sausage once to make Italian Sausage soup, which was the time that I found out about my gallstones, so I might be biased against it.

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