Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Considering Convenience:
My Favorite Kitchen Tools

Last night I had supper atop a glade in the middle of the Missouri Ozarks. The October evening was unseasonably warm, the sun hanging low above the surrounding oaks and cedars, the dog splashing in the creek at the bottom of the hollow. (That’d be the ‘holler’ if I lived in Mizz-ur-ra, not Mizz-ur-ee.)

LadyDog surveying the glade

Over a small Indian fire, we cooked buffalo steaks, toasted whole-grain rolls, and roasted apples, all speared onto V-necked dogwood shoots and balanced over the embers by a heat-reflecting stone. Twas some feast.

Twas some feast, yes, but one of considerable incongruity too, given that the buffalo and the rolls came from Whole Foods – but then were cooked entirely without benefit of modern convenience save a sharp knife and stick matches.

It just goes to show, technology isn’t a necessity, it’s a convenience – which isn’t to say that we all don’t rely on these conveniences, that they don’t make our lives easier, even better.

Here are ten conveniences that make my life in the kitchen better, easier, kitchen technology that makes me happy to live in the modern world – so long as every once in awhile, “supper is served” in the woods.

Slow Cooker – I recently invested in a programmable slow cooker with 'high' and 'low' and 'keep warm' features – for the first time, I understand why home cooks love their slow cookers. Watch for slow-cooker adaptations of many Kitchen Parade recipes in the next year.

Kitchen Scale – Time and again, I pull out my kitchen scale to measure ingredients, especially for ones such as cheese and nuts and vegetables that measured by either weight and volume. The kitchen scale helps me use ‘just enough’ – not too much, not too little.

Nutrition Analysis Software – Software helps answer ‘what if’ questions related to ingredients and portion size. ‘What if’ I used 1 tablespoon olive oil versus the 4 tablespoons specified? What if this apple pie were cut into 10 slim slices versus 8 generous pieces? For my Windows laptop, I relied on AccuChef. Now that I use a Mac, I use Mac Gourmet and its nutrition analysis plug-in.

FoodSaver – Since paying close attention to cooking on a budget, I’ve started buying meat once a month, then stocking the freezer. The first month, I used the butcher’s packaging, what a mistake. Now I repack the meat into meal-sized portions and also, say, separately package the backs and wings of chickens for making chicken stock, and later then, freeze already-cooked meat for another meal. The FoodSaver vacuum seals the air out of the packaging, so the meat doesn’t get freezer burned and doesn’t leak into the fridge while defrosting. Many thanks to Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen for encouraging this purchase!

Immersion Blender – I do love my Cuisinart food processor but it’s the immersion blender I turn to more often, both the blender itself and the mini food processor attachment. They’re small, handy and easily fit into the dishwasher.



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Electric tea kettle – Do we really need an appliance that boils water? Well, yes, at least I do. Faster than the stove or the microwave, an electric tea kettle heats the water for a fast soup or fast plate of pasta. My small electric kettle from Presto boils water to the perfect temperature for tea, too!

Ice Cream Maker – This molasses ice cream reminded me how fun it is to create unusual ice cream flavors, with cream and eggs and sugar, no stabilizers, no chemicals. An ice cream maker makes it oh-so-convenient.

Food Blog Search – If you love the creativity and common sense recipes of food bloggers, be sure to bookmark the food blog search engine designed by food bloggers Elise, Kalyn and me that includes (so far!) 2600 top food blogs from across the world.

Delicious – Once you find an enticing recipe on Food Blog Search, save it for later using Delicious. Tag the recipes with your own terms, whatever will make it easy to find them later. I use terms like ‘zucchini’, ‘brown rice’, even qualities like ‘easy’ and cooking occasions like my ‘book club’. It's also easy to share your collection with friends and family, just send them the link to your very own page on Delicious. For A Veggie Venture, I use Delicious to collect delicious-looking vegetable recipes from other food blogs, called VegetableSpotting.

Printer – Okay so perhaps I’m a kitchen luddite because I don’t carry my laptop into the kitchen to cook from. Me, I want to print the recipe so I can make notes about my own ideas and adaptations, so a printer is essential.


And you? So. That’s my Top Ten list of favorite kitchen tools. What wouldn’t be on your list? What IS on your own list? Drop a quick e-mail, leave a comment. I’d love to know!


Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

No-Knead English Muffin Bread

Are you a "yeast-a-phobic" cook? A Kitchen Parade reader shares her recipe for English Muffin Bread to banish all your fears.

No-Knead English Muffin Bread. Hot bread for supper? A yeast bread recipe that reaches the table in just two hours? No problem! No kneading, no worries, no trouble at all.


COMPLIMENTS!
"I absolutely love this recipe and have made it four or five times." ~ Jasmine
"I made it with half whole wheat flour and half white flour. YUM!! ... Nice texture and flavor." ~ Shannon
"... so freakin good that I plan to make this weekly. ... final product is so tender and moist." ~ Mary
"An artisan loaf at the store will run you between $3-$4, but you can make it at home for less than a dollar." ~ Budget Bytes


Crestwood reader Carole Splater has a message for what she calls "yeast-a-phobic" cooks. “It’s almost a sin that my English Muffin Bread is so easy. We love it, our guests love it, everybody loves it.”

And I love it too, ever since Carole e-mailed her recipe last fall.

No bread machine, no stand mixer, no kneading. Just a few ingredients, 15 minutes of attention and two hours later, hot delicious bread emerges from the oven. The crust is great, the crumb is perfect. If this recipe can’t resolve someone’s insecurities about yeast bread, well, their loss. Really, there is simply no need, ahem, to worry about this no-knead bread.

CAROLE's TIPS Frugal bread bakers buy yeast at wholesale clubs. It comes in a packet so large it might be characterized as a life-time supply but stored in the freezer, yeast keeps indefinitely. When a recipe calls for a packet of yeast, just use 2-1/4 teaspoons. The bread should be sliced and eaten within 30 minutes of the oven. Alternatively, let the bread cool, then cut into thick slices and wrap in one or more foil packets. Just before serving, reheat the slices right in the foil at 350F for 12 -15 minutes. Freeze remaining packets for serving another day.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

READER RECIPE:
ENGLISH MUFFIN BREAD

No knead, no worry
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time to table: 2 hours
Serves 8
    (be sure to read Later Notes, below for ingredient updates)
  • 1 packet yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 125g
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1-1/4 cup warm (not hot) tap water
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 220g
  • Yellow cornmeal

MIX In a large bowl, combine the yeast, 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and water. With a hand-held mixer, beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. (Time yourself, 3 minutes takes forever with such an easy job.) Add the remaining 1 3/4 cups flour and mix until fully blended. If the dough gets so thick it wants to "climb" the beaters, stop, remove the beaters, and use a wooden spoon to finish blending. The dough will be thick and heavy.

LET RISE Grease a 1-1/2 or 2-quart casserole dish and dust with cornmeal. Add dough and arrange evenly, it will be thick and heavy but don't worry, this needn’t be perfect. Sprinkle top with cornmeal. Cover with a light towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 – 60 minutes, until bread roughly doubles in size.

BAKE Some time midway, heat oven to 400F/100C. Remove the towel and bake for 30 – 45 minutes until top is golden. Turn onto a cooling rack.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Slice, assumes 8: 170 Calories; 0g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 36g Carb; 1g Fiber; 149mg Sodium; 0mg Cholesterol; 5g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 3 & WW PointsPlus 4

LATER NOTES


CONVERTING the RECIPE to WHOLE GRAIN FLOUR Thanks to the encouragement of Shannon (a Kitchen Parade reader, see the comments below), I made the No-Knead English Muffin Bread using 1 cup freshly ground whole wheat flour and 1-3/4 cup of King Arthur's 100% white whole wheat flour. The bread was very good but a little 'earthy' for my taste. Next time, I'll try 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour. I'll also add a tablespoon or two of molasses to deepen the color and add a bit of sweetness that seems needed for whole-grain breads. If anyone has more ideas, I would love to know, since converting bread recipes to whole grain flours should be a definite goal for all of us.

HOW WARM IS A 'WARM PLACE' FOR BREAD DOUGH TO RISE? Like many people, I keep my house a cool 65 - 67F during the winter. Bread dough rises verrrry slowly at this temperature. So I've taken to using a small, portable space heater near the bowl. I've learned that it must be set at 75F, not 70F, for a quick rise. Good to know!

USE MORE YEAST Carole writes that she now uses a whole tablespoon of yeast to substitute for a packet. She continues, "It makes an even lighter product. I bake LOTS of bread over time and have found this to be very successful!"


THE LEGENDARY NO-KNEAD BREAD


Two years ago, the New York Times published a recipe for No-Knead Bread. Sure, the bread needed no kneading, but more than that, the technique yielded a bread with a crackling-crisp crust and a light, airy interior crumb. This would be worth kneading! Within a couple of weeks, food bloggers and bread bakers everywhere were baking loaves of No-Knead Bread. (Just check Food Blog Search, it's amazing the number of references.) I made it a few times but was unexcited, if only because it took a master clock watcher to figure out when to START the bread some time early the day before, in order to serve hot bread for supper the next night. Plus the dough was wet and sticky, hard to work with, especially for someone perhaps less confident in the kitchen. The flavor was okay, but, well, not worth the trouble. (In fact, Cooks Illustrated tested and retested the recipe, see the January 2008 issue since it's available online only with a paid subscription, and the New York Times just recently published a revision, Speedy No-Knead Bread.)

When Carole wrote to me last fall, she'd not heard about No-Knead Bread! But she'd been making her No-Knead English Muffin Bread for years, perfecting the already-simple recipe. Thank you, Carole, for letting me share your recipe with Kitchen Parade readers, I just know they'll love the ease and convenience!


DOING THE MATH ON THE COST of HOMEMADE BREAD


One of the main ideas in how to save money on groceries is to "do the math". Let's do the math on homemade bread.
Carole shared her math for yeast. "Try buying yeast at Sam’s Club or Costco – the cost difference is so phenomenal. Two pounds of yeast costs $3 something (so $.03 per loaf) versus $1.59 for 3/4 ounces (so $.53 per loaf) at the grocery store, the equivalent of $67. I keep yeast in a mayonnaise jar in the freezer; it lasts indefinitely."
But let's go further. At my grocery store today, 5 pounds of brand-name unbleached flour is $2.99 for five pounds so you'll use $.30 of flour, salt is $.46 for 24 ounces, cornmeal is $1.89 for 24 ounces.
Summary: $.03 yeast + $.30 flour + less than a penny for salt + $.05 for cornmeal. Who's buying bread for less than $.40 a loaf or $.05 a serving? Heavens, who buys a bagel for less than that? I think not! Food for thought, indeed.

More Easy Bread Recipes

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Weeknight-Easy Rolls Swedish Rye Bread Light 'n' Fluffy Homemade Whole-Grain Bread & Buns

Celebration Breads

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Choereg, Aremenian Easter Bread Hot Cross Buns Pan de Muerto (Bread for Day of the Dead)
~ more bread recipes ~

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chicken with Creamy Apple Cider Gravy

A one-skillet chicken supper, full-flavored chicken thighs cradled in a creamy gravy made with apple cider. Plus I share my favorite technique for pulling all the flavor from chicken skins without adding all the calories. It's brilliant if I may say so myself!

Republished in 2012, one of my favorite fall recipes, simple, savory, satisfying.

Chicken with Creamy Apple Cider Gravy

When we lose an old friend, we know the expressions of grief: we cry, we console, we deliver casseroles. But how should an old tree be mourned? Often, the gravestump remains, raw, harsh, ugly.


A Good Oak, 1892 – 2008
Here lie the roots of an old friend, an oak that shaded our lives in summer, dropped acorns for the squirrels, shed leaves to rake, cut craggly patterns into winter skies.

Gone but not Forgotten.


When I visit my family home in the north woods of Minnesota, I visit the trees, too. There’s the clump in whose V the neighbor girls crafted doll beds of crimson poppy petals. There’s the birch where family photographs were taken, recording new rings in both tree and children. After I cut a boy’s initials into the trunk of the poplar by the road, my forester father sat me down for a serious talk. “Trees are living beings,” he taught.

Kirkwood, Webster and all the 100 towns in my hometown of St. Louis are thick with trees. Flying into Lambert, a window seat gives evidence, vast tracts of green. Oaks and maples take a couple of generations to grow tall. A storm takes one down, or severs a limb, in seconds; a man with a chainsaw requires 15 minutes. Justice prevails it seems, when it takes the man and a chipper a day to remove the tree’s roots, its marker, its grave, but no, never, not its memory.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

QUICK SUPPER:
CHICKEN with CREAMY APPLE CIDER GRAVY

Moist chicken in a mahogany sauce
Hands-on time: 10 minutes to start,
10 to finish
Time to table: 50 minutes
Serves 4
    CHICKEN
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter (for flavor)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil (for its low smoke point)
  • 1-1/4 pounds chicken thighs, preferably bones-in, skins-on
  • Salt & pepper
  • Dried sage
    CREAMY APPLE CIDER GRAVY
  • 1 - 4 shallots (or 1 small onion), chopped small
  • 3/4 cup apple cider, preferably unpasteurized
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup cream or 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste

CHICKEN In a large well-seasoned or non-stick skillet, heat butter and oil on medium heat until shimmery. Remove chicken skins, discarding all but one. Place the one skin and thighs top-side down in skillet (they should sizzle). Season with salt, pepper and sage, then let cook without moving for 5 minutes. Turn over, season, cook another 5 minutes. Cover and let cook for 30 minutes. With tongs, transfer thighs to a plate, keep warm.

CREAMY APPLE CIDER GRAVY Add shallot, stir to coat and let cook 1 – 2 minutes. Add cider and soy sauce. Increase heat to medium high, bring liquid to a fast simmer with lots of bubbles. Stirring often, let cook until cider reduces by about half. Stir in the cream or butter, let cook, stirring often, until sauce turns mahogany and thickens.

Serve chicken with Creamy Apple Cider Gravy draped over the top.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Serving: 261 Calories; 15g Tot Fat; 6g Sat Fat; 6g Carb; 0g Fiber; 223mg Sodium; 125mg Cholesterol; 24g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS WW Old Points 6.5 & WW PointsPlus 7

LATER NOTES
Last month a reader wrote to sing praises of a pork chop version of Chicken Sybil using apple cider for the liquid. She was surprised, however, when the cider flamed up when added to the hot skillet, just like a flambé. I've never had this happen, but just in case, you might turn off the fire before adding the cider. Thanks for the tip, Sally!
This chicken is completely wonderful with fall's 'winter' squash like butternut, hubbard, acorn and more. In the photo is Acorn Squash Roasted Face Down but there are so many great ways to cook winter squash but here are My Favorite Winter Squash Recipes.

I wrote this column in 2007 when neighbors removed a small but healthy tree. And then in 2008, neighbors on the other side removed a healthy 100-year old oak tree. Some decisions, there's no understanding.

View from my office, the day before
10:53 am 2:35 pm 3:52 pm
Next Day 12:39 pm 12:44 pm 6:45 pm

More Fast Chicken Recipes Perfect for Fall

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Chicken Cider Stew Sweet 'n' Hot Chicken Baked Chicken with Herb-Roasted Potatoes


Recent Favorites from A Veggie Venture

If you like Kitchen Parade's recipes, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, visit A Veggie Venture, my food blog, home to the Alphabet of Vegetables where there's a vegetable in every recipe and vegetables in every course.