Betty's Healthy Hangover Buster

Happy Labor Day, readers! Here in Seattle, the weather is starting to cool and the clouds have returned after what felt like a very LONG and very HOT summer.

As you all know, I love testing and writing about projects to share will you guys--but unfortunately materials and supplies cost real money. However, I am thrilled to announce that I have set up a "Donate" button on the About Betty page, which allows you amazing people to kick me a little cash here and there to help me keep this blog going and ad-free. No one likes sidebars full of ads and popups and I want to keep the content coming so if you've got a few extra bucks here and there-- I would be most appreciative. I promise your hard-earned dollars will only go toward craft supplies, not hookers and smack.

Speaking of new content--

Hold on to your butts, Beta Testers, it's about to get so damn AUTUMNAL up in here-- As you all know, Fall is my all time favorite time of year which culminates in my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. Consider yourselves warned.

Autumn at Greenlake, via Olypress.com taken by Bill Baker

Autumn at Greenlake, via Olypress.com taken by Bill Baker

As for today's post, I think we've all been in this situation...

But then the next day...

But NEVER FEAR! I have some easy, healthy recipes that will bust that hangover and save you from a greasy food induced mid-afternoon coma. You've got shit to do and ain't nobody got time for an all day hangover. 

Betty's Hangover Buster

Mushroom Scramble

Eggs have tons of protein and fats that help absorb the alcohol still swimming around in your body and mushrooms are full of vitamin B and antioxidants which help you detox from your bacchanal. Also giving your body the calories to repair and gives a slightly touchy tummy something to hold on to. 

  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Any other veggies you have (opt)
  • 1tbs milk, s&p (opt)

Whisk 2-3 eggs with a dash of milk, s&p (opt). If you'r an onion person, sauté 1/4c diced onion and sliced mushrooms over medium heat in an oiled skillet for approx. 3 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the eggy goodness. Use a spatula or wood spoon to shove everything around until the eggs are firm and matte (less if you are a runny-egg loving savage). Consume, and be healed.  

Honey Elvis Toast

Can't quite face eggs or turning on the stove? No problem. Honey and bananas are not only full of potassium and antioxidants, they're also a natural sugar to help you replenish the sugars you lost. Honey can also help soothe a croaky throat stirred into some tea. The toast helps to settle the stomach and the peanut butter gives you some easy to digest protein. 

  • Whole wheat toast
  • 2tbs peanut butter
  • 1 medium banana
  • Drizzle of honey

Toast 1-2pcs of bread and slather with peanut butter. Cut the banana into rounds or slices and lay on top of peanut butter, drizzle with honey. A little less hangover, a little more awesome.

Beverage Flight

When you drink alcohol, your body gets super dehydrated which is part of what causes the raging hangover. You can reduce the hangover by drinking plenty of water while you're out on the town, but the next day you also need to hydrate. My go-to is a flight of water (flat or sparkling, with a little lemon), the perfect cup of black tea and super-hydrator of your choice. Water is an obvious choice, and the sparking will help calm your tummy and the lemon assists in replenishing electrolytes. I recommend tea over coffee for your caffeine fix (it won't help your hangover to also have caffeine withdrawal) because it's gentler on the stomach and less dehydrating. As far as a super-hydrator, you can take your pick! Coconut water, Gatorade, Pedialyte, fruit juice... whatever you're partial to. These drinks hydrate and replenish electrolytes which will help with the headache and the "I think I got hit by a bus" feeling. 

  • A big ol' glass of sparkling water with 2 lemon wheels
  • My perfect cup of tea is PG TIps steeped 3-4 minutes in just-below-boiling water with a bit of half and half (bliss)
  • Small glass of your super-hydrator of choice. Consider cutting it with regular water if your choice has a ton of sugar to keep you from the dreaded mid-day sugar crash.

Remember to hydrate hydrate hydrate and you do have to eat-- especially if you're going to take painkillers for the headache. So get out there, you party animals and remember these tips so you can be back to doin what you do in no time.


There you have it beta-testers! Have some tried-and-true hangover cures of your own? Let me know in the comments. Stay up to date with Betty HQ by following me on social media and using #bettybetatester. Keep those suggestions coming! xoxo--

Gourmet Camp Cooking Recipe Roundup

Happy Tuesday, Beta Testers! This week we're tackling camping food, and I'm not talkin' weenies and sandwiches... so let's jump right in! 

For all of these recipes you will need either foil pans or a cast iron dutch oven (10"-12" with legs and lid), heavy-duty aluminum foil, cooking spray, insulated BBQ mitts, BBQ tongs, a charcoal chimney starter, and charcoal briquettes.

A note about the charcoal...

For each of these recipes, I suggest splitting the number of charcoal briquettes needed in half and heating them in the chimney in shifts. Here is a simple how-to for lighting charcoal! Once the first shift is lightly ashy, pour them out flat so that you can place the dutch oven over top. Then start the second set, which you will use on the top of the dutch oven. This method gets the bottom cooking first and keeps stuff from burning. Also remember that these are my estimates, and you may find you need more or less briquettes to cook, hence the frequent checking. 

Dutch Oven Pizza 

35 minutes total (5-10 to prep, 25-30 cooking)

20 briquettes on bottom, 12-15 on top

Apologies for the mood-lighting... our late-start (and sort of loosing our way on the trails) that afternoon meant we ate in the dark

Apologies for the mood-lighting... our late-start (and sort of loosing our way on the trails) that afternoon meant we ate in the dark

  • Pre-made pizza dough (I buy it from Trader Joe's, but you could get extra fancy and make some from scratch. I recommend the recipe in Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkish)
  • Marinera sauce (also from TJ's)
  • Shredded mozzerella
  • Desired toppings (we chose canadian bacon and pineapple, I suggest cutting any veggies before you leave home to save on chopping time and cleanup)
  1. Line dutch oven with heavy-duty foil, spray foil with cooking spray
  2. Turn dough out into (clean) hands and begin to stretch it by holding the dough vertically and allowing gravity to pull it down. Move your hands around the outside of the dough until you have a disc close to the size of your dutch oven.
  3. Lay the dough into the dutch oven and push it to the edges with your fingers.
  4. Spread your sauce over the dough leaving a narrow boarder around the edges.
  5. Top your pizza with whatever you like, including plenty of cheese.
  6. Following the above instructions about charcoal, start cookin your pizza! I checked it at 10m, 20m, 25m and then it was done at 30minutes, however actual timing may vary-- again with the obsessive checking!

This pizza made a great first-night meal. We were tired from setting up camp and wandering around the campground and visitor area, but not starving. Paired with a cold Fremont Summer Ale and s'mores later around the fire it made for the perfect first night meal with easy cleanup to boot.

Our second evening boasted a much more elaborate meal as we were coming off a long, damp hike and needed some serious food. The menu was Lemon Tilapia with Roasted Veggies and Cornbread, and a mixed berry cobbler for dessert. Paired with a red wine to help warm us back up.

Cooking arrangement, cornbread in dutch oven, cobbler and tilapia w veggies in the foil pans

Cooking arrangement, cornbread in dutch oven, cobbler and tilapia w veggies in the foil pans

Tilapia with Roast Veggies

40 minutes (5 prep, 35 to cook)

  • Tilapia fillets (frozen from TJ's)
  • 1 Lemon (2 if you're doing several fillets)
  • Butter (about 1tbs per fillet)
  • S&P (and any other herbs/spices you fancy)
  • Veggies (we went with fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, and (sliced) mushrooms)
  • foil roasting pan
  1. Lay tilapia fillets in roasting pan and top with bits of butter, lemon slices and S&P
  2. Place veggies around and on top of the fillets
  3. Cover with heavy duty foil
  4. Place on grate over a good cooking fire
  5. Check every 5-7 minutes (rotating 1/4 turn when you check) until the fish flakes and the veggies are tender. Ours took about 35 minutes because potatoes are stubborn.

Cast Iron Cornbread

35 minutes total (5 prep, 30 cook)

20 briquettes on bottom, 10 on top

  • 1 1/4c milk
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 1/2 c medium-grind cornmeal
  • 1/2c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs sugar 
  • 1 egg
  1. Before you leave: mix dry ingredients in a plastic container to minimize work at the campsite
  2. Line dutch oven with foil and spray with cooking spray
  3. Melt butter in saucepan over pre-heating briquettes and pour into dutch oven (I dearly wish I had captured this maneuver, because it was brilliantly simple and ingenious)
  4. White butter is melting, mix dry ingredients with milk and egg until combined and pour into dutch oven after butter
  5. Follow the charcoal instructions and start the bottom to cooking. Add the briquettes to the top once they are ready. Check every 10 minutes until done (approx 30 minutes). 

Mixed Berry Cobbler

30 minutes total (5 to prep, 25 to cook)

18 briquettes on bottom, 10 on top

  • 4 cups fresh mixed berries

  • 1/4c granulated sugar

  • 2 tbs all-purpose flour

  • 1 can Pillsbury Biscuits (you could also pre-make homemade if you are feeling like going the extra mile-- try this one from Joy the Baker, omitting the extra flavor additions if you prefer)

  1. Pre-mix the berries, sugar and flour in a plastic container for easy cleanup.
  2. Line dutch oven with foil (you can also prepare a foil pan as with the tilapia, but it is much more difficult to achieve browned biscuits that way--trust me)
  3. Pour the berry mix into the dutch oven and top with the pre-made biscuits
  4. Follow the charcoal instructions and start the bottom to cooking. Add the briquettes to the top once they are ready. Check every 5-7 minutes until done (approx 25 minutes). 
  5. I did the cobbler in the foil pan, but I wouldn't recommend it-- it was too hard to get the top to brown (which is how there came to be burned parts and bits of ash in the cobbler...don't be like me) and it would have been just as easy to do the cornbread first, lift it out of the dutch oven and then start the cobbler.
Cheers to the great outdoors

Cheers to the great outdoors


Hope you enjoyed this summer's camp cooking roundup! If you missed the pictures from my camping trip check out next Sunday's post to get the full panorama of Mt Rainier beauty. As always, keep those requests coming and give me a follow on the social medias for even more Betty action. xo--

Easy Peasy Weeknight Dinners: Avocado Pasta

What happened to this week? I blinked and suddenly it's Friday. Not cool, time-space continuum. Not cool.

Which is great segue to talk about trying to eat actual food on a weeknight. This is a constant struggle for everyone and it's good to have some fast, no-fail recipes in your repertoire for just such occasions. And thus, I give you... Avocado Pasta!

Ingredients

  • 1 avocado 
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • Basil
  • Pasta (I went with spinach spaghetti)
  • 1 package of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • The usuals (olive oil, salt & pepper)
  • Asparagus (optional), cut into thirds

 

 

1. Cook pasta per package instructions, roast asparagus in foil with olive oil, salt and pepper

2. While the pasta is cooking, halve avocado and remove the pit. Scoop into a food processor or blender with the garlic, basil, a squeeze or two of lemon juice-- and blend it up!

3. When it starts to get creamy, start drizzling olive oil into the mix a little at a time while the processor is running to emulsify. I check mine every few seconds and stop when its almost the consistency of a cream sauce. This is personal preference so feel free to make it as thick or thin as you like.

4. Combine pasta, avocado sauce, halved cherry tomatoes, and roasted asparagus-- Serve with more sliced basil and any protein of your choice (I am particularly fond of a soft boiled or poached egg, but that's just me). 

Apparently, I was so hungry that I ate it all before getting a nice picture of it all plated up. Le sigh. Suffice it to say it was super tastey. You could definitely add feta or another cheese to make it even creamier, but I'm trying to keep it dairy-lite these days (your thoughts are appreciated during this difficult time). One thing I will say about this recipe is that it doesn't really do well as leftovers. The avocado part starts to brown despite the lemon juice and it looks less appetizing as "black sludge pasta", let me assure you. Which would be why I gave you the amounts for 2 servings. Guess you'll just have to have that special non-dairy person over to dinner... (and then tell me how it went!)


So how did you guys like this recipe? Good? Hope so! I love getting your comments and suggestions so keep 'em coming! The best way to keep up with what's going on is on the social medias instagram/twitter/pinterest. 'Til next time...xo

Sunday Funday with Poached Eggs

Did this week go by lightning-fast for anyone else? It sure did me.

I gotta tell you guys-- I love Sundays. I really, really do! They end up being a great day for a bit of laying around with a cuppa and a book, a bit of task accomplishment, and a bit of cooking. All my favorite things rolled up into one stretchy-pants wearing day. Not to mention it is the day for which brunch was created, and no one could hate brunch. 

Speaking of brunch. You know what I also love? Poached Eggs. And until quite recently, I could never get them quite right. I owe part of my new-found egg poaching skills to this great article on Smitten Kitchen. She's awesome. 

To poach an egg you'll need only a few things:

  • An egg (or several)
  • Saucepan
  • White (wine) vinegar
  • Small bowl
  • Slotted spoon
  • Moxy

Poaching Eggs

  1. Heat water and a touch of white vinegar over medium heat, until it is just about to boil. Or if you're me and suck at determining that, let it come to a boil and turn the heat down.
  2. Crack an egg into a small bowl. It will be way easier to get the egg into the water this way. 
  3. Once the water has achieved it's "almost boil", carefully tip the egg into the saucepan. You can use the handle of your slotted spoon to swirl the water if the whites of your egg have gone awry and spread out everywhere.
  4. Cook 3-4 minutes, or however long creates the poached egg of your dreams! Retrieve it from the water with your slotted spoon and set on an adjacent paper towel.
Disembodied hand!! YIKES

Disembodied hand!! YIKES

Now this is the fun part: Making the toast bed for your eggy prize. I am particularly fond of smooshing up an avocado on toast and adding a pinch (or five) of cracked black pepper.

Now THATS a poached egg

Now THATS a poached egg

Have you poached your egg yet? --I'll wait-- You back? Good. 

Now for the Gems of the Internet:

This week was feminist superstar Gloria Steinam's birthday, here are some amazing facts about her from Bustle.com to make you love her even more

If you live in or around Seattle and love things that are awesome, I highly recommend you see Seattle Rep's new musical Lizard Boywritten by my dear friend and brilliant human Justin Huertas. 

In this week's cool museum news: the Prado Museum in Madrid has created tactile replicas of paintings that allow visually impaired patrons to touch the work! So cool.

I am a giant history nerd, and now there's an app (or two) for that. One that shows you what sites looked like decades or centuries ago called Pivot, and the other buzzes you when you approach sites of women's history (herstory)!


What did you guys get up to this weekend? I can't wait to show you what I've been cooking up around BettyHQ, so stay tuned! Have an awesome week--xo

Preserving your Harvest

Late summer is full of many things: back to school shopping, getting the most out of those last few summer nights, and in my house, CANNING. My grams had a large "victory garden" and canned a large portion of what they grew to use during the leaner winter months and my mom later followed suit. So it seems only right to be canning the (literal) fruits of our labors when they are at the peak of ripeness between August and October, depending on the crop. It also keeps heaps of fresh fruit and veggies from going bad, which is great for my wallet, since I took most of the summer off of work.

My co-worker Miriam has a beautiful Green Gage plum tree in her yard and got a giant crop this year and I was only too happy to take a bag of them off of her hands to make Plum Jam. But before we get into the how-to's, let's talk about the process and theory behind canning.

Canning is really one step beyond cooking. It is a method that applies heat to food in a closed glass home canning jar to stop the natural spoilage that would otherwise take place, and removes air from the jar to create a seal.
— Ball Canning via freshpreserving.com

There are two at-home methods for canning, water-bath and pressure canning. I do not own a pressure canner (but would like one...feel free to remedy this situation) so I will be demonstrating the water-bath method.

The Water-Bath Method

In water-bath canning you will be working exclusively with foods that are high in acidity. High-acid-foods are easy to preserve and include fruits, fruit juices, jams, jellies and other fruit spreads, salsas, tomatoes with added acid, pickles, relishes, chutneys, sauces, vinegars and condiments. The high acidity ensures that bacteria will not grow in your food and destroy all of your hard work. In order to can low-acidity foods (vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood) you need a pressure canner which can achieve the appropriate temperature (240F) to kill all bacteria.

Equipment

  • Tested preserving recipe-- this is important to ensure the correct ph for canning, it's possible to do your own recipe but botulism is no picnic so I opt for tested recipes from the Ball Canning and Preserving Guide. Heirloom recipes are super special to have but I use them only for things I intend to freeze, rather than can.
  • Water bath canner (or a large, deep pot with a lid) and a canning rack
  • Second large pot with lid-- to sterilize/heat jars
  • Glass preserving jars, lids and bands (always start with new lids, you can re-use the bands and jars).
  • Jar lifter (or tongs)-- not a necessity but they come in REAL handy when the jars are super hot
  • Common kitchen utensils, such as wooden spoon, ladle, and funnel. Also many dishtowels. I am a big canning mess-maker.
  • Fresh produce
My home canning set-up: the recipe, water bath canner, jar lifter, and second pot for heating jars.

My home canning set-up: the recipe, water bath canner, jar lifter, and second pot for heating jars.

Preparing the Jars

1. Check jars, lids and bands. Jars with nicks, cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges may prevent sealing or cause jar breakage. The underside of lids should not have scratches or uneven or incomplete sealing compound as this may prevent sealing. Bands should fit on jars. Wash jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse well. Dry bands.


2. Fill a large saucepan or stockpot half-way with water. Place jars in water (filling jars with water from the saucepan will prevent flotation). Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Keep jars hot until ready for use. You may also use a dishwasher to wash and heat jars, a good idea if you are doing a LOT of canning. Keeping jars hot prevents them from breaking when hot food is added. Leave lids and bands at room temperature for easy handling.

3. Prepare boiling water bath canner by filling half-full with water and keep water at a simmer (covered with the rack in place) until jars are ready. You don’t necessarily need to buy a water-bath canner if you don’t already have one at home. You may already have a pot large enough to double as a canner. A water bath canner is simply a large, deep saucepot equipped with a lid and a rack. The pot must be large enough to fully surround and immerse the jars in water by 1 to 2 inches and allow for the water to boil rapidly with the lid on. If you don’t have a rack designed for home preserving, use a cake cooling rack or extra bands tied together to cover the bottom of the pot. This might be a good alternative for first-time canners until you decide to invest in canning gear.  

The Recipe

As I said before, I tend only to use tested recipes found in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving or from another trusted source. After putting in all the work growing, harvesting and putting up your produce, it is truly horrible to have it all go to waste because of a bad recipe. I will divert slightly when it comes to some spices and the amount of sugar because I am not overly fond of super sugary jams, purees or spreads. 

For the plum jam, I used the Ball Blue Book recipe:

  • 5c coarsely chopped plums
  • 3c sugar
  • 3/4c water

Combine water, sugar and plums in saucepan and slowly bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly to the gelling point; approximately 220 degrees F at sea-level or when the jam "rounds" up on a spoon. As the jam thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Once gelled, remove from heat and skim off foam if necessary. Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4" of space between the jam and the top of the jar, also called headspace. Process for 15 minutes in boiling-water canner. Recipe yields about 3 pints. I used two half-pints (for me) and six 4oz jars since they are a better size for gift-giving.

Filling and Processing

Once the recipe is ready, it is time to fill and process the jars!

1. Remove hot jar from water, using jar lifter or tongs, emptying water inside jar. Fill jars one at a time with prepared food using a funnel and ladle, leaving space recommended in recipe. Remove air bubbles, if stated in recipe, by sliding a rubber spatula between the jar and food to release trapped air and ensure proper headspace during processing.

2. Clean jar rim and threads of jar using a clean, damp cloth to remove any food residue. Center lid on jar allowing sealing compound to come in contact with the jar rim, apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.

3. Place filled jars in canner until recipe is used or canner is full.

4. Lower rack with jars into water. Make sure water covers jars by 1 to 2 inches. If not, I will typically pour the already-hot water from the jar heating pot into the canner.

5. Place lid on water bath canner and bring water to a full rolling boil. Once the water is boiling, begin processing time per the recipe.

Now we wait... I hate waiting.

6. When processing is complete, turn off the heat and remove the canner lid, leaving the jars to stand for 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner and set upright on a towel to prevent jar breakage that can occur from temperature differences. Leave jars undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Bands should not be retightened as this may interfere with the sealing process.

MORE waiting... ugh.

7. Check that jar lids have a good seal. Lids should not flex up and down when center is pressed. Remove bands and try to lift lids off with your fingertips. If the lid cannot be lifted off, the lid has a good seal. If a lid does not seal within 24 hours, the product can be immediately reprocessed or refrigerated. Clean mason jars and lids with a damp towel. Label with contents & date, then store in a cool, dry, dark place for typically up to 1 year.

DONE!

My pictures of the finished jam didn't turn out so behold Brandied Pears!

My pictures of the finished jam didn't turn out so behold Brandied Pears!

 

I hope you will all feel confident enough to try you own hand at canning, it is fun and very satisfying even if it does turn your kitchen into a sauna. Keep me posted on your own beta projects, canning or otherwise with #BettyBetaTester. Despite being back at work, there is plenty more coming your way soon from Betty HQ, so stay tuned!

In Pursuit of the Perfect Bread

It's a pretty long story to get to why but one of my goals for 2014 includes teaching myself how to make awesome rustic crusty bread at home. In Seattle I am surrounded by amazing bakeries but there is something about kneading and baking and filling my kitchen with the smell of bread that is extremely appealing. And thus, the search for the most delicious, comprehensive, no-fail bread recipe began.

This dish may or may not be why I learned to make bread

This dish may or may not be why I learned to make bread

I started with the internet-- first Pinterest and then general google searches. I tried a few recipes from these sources but wasn't finding what I really wanted. Part of this was because baking bread is unlike any other baking I've ever done. It is very specific and the fermentation requires particular conditions. At that point I turned to the trusty Seattle Public Library for help and checked out a few popular books on the subject, including Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkish and My Bread by Jim Lahey. I'm still working my way through a few other books and recipes but so far those are the two I like best. They include awesome tutorials on what is actually happening when you mix, knead, ferment and proof the dough as well as great recipes and photographs.

So here's how my experiments went down:

First, Ken Forkish's "Saturday White Bread", which is an all-day ferment so that one could begin at 9:30am and have fresh loaves by around 5pm. It (as with all the recipes in his book) contains only the four traditional ingredients for bread; flour, water, salt, and yeast. You'll have to check out his book to get the full technique and quantities. It is a really versatile recipe that can be used for a boule loaf (like I did below), pizza or focaccia.

As far as Forkish's principles and techniques, he is pretty easy for the home-baker to follow. Though I will say that some of the equipment that he recommends I think are too much of an investment to make before you even know if this is for you.

Here is my break-down on the major equipment and the poor-man's substitutes:

  1. Dough tub: he lists a 12-qt dough tub with lid for mixing and rising. But those are huge. And I just can't justify buying (and storing) and singular-use kitchen item. Thus, I used a pyrex mixing bowl with no problems. Same with the smaller tubs he lists... more mixing bowls!
  2. Dutch oven: this is pretty much the crux of his baking technique so you kinda need one. Frankly, they are awesome for just about everything so having one in the kitchen isn't a bad idea. I use mine for soup, roast chicken, pork loin and now bread. It pretty much means you don't have to try to simulate the steam generated by fancy bakery ovens in order to get crusty outside and moist inside (also called the "crumb").
  3. Digital Kitchen Scale: I really didn't want this to be a necessary item because it seems so superfluous but it actually makes the measuring WAY easier. Ultimately the deal is that the weight of the ingredients doesn't change no matter how packed down they are so there is no guessing. I found a pretty slick scale at Fred Meyer for $25 that is totally flat and takes up basically no space, there are also cheaper versions so it isn't TOO terrible. You CAN convert to cups but the weight is more precise. Pro Tip: when it comes to the tiny amounts of yeast, just use teaspoons since the scales aren't so sensitive enough to give an accurate measure.
  4. Instant-Read Probe Thermometer: Also something I didn't want to be required, and I think it is somewhat less helpful than the scale. But I did buy one because I have no concept of how 90 degree water feels. You may already have one you use for checking the temp of meat, etc. (Not the same as the analog thermometer you leave in the oven for your Thanksgiving turkey.)
  5. Proofing Baskets: Here's the big one that you SOOOOO don't need to buy. They are bentwood baskets (also called a "banneton") that you cover in flour for the final rise after shaping the loaves and while they are super cool they're also spendy ($45 on Amazon for one!). I used my trusty large pyrex mixing bowls with a lint-free tea towel dusted in flour, which works just fine.

Other things you will need include oven mitts for dealing with a G-D M-F HOT dutch oven. That baby is pre-heated at 475 degrees and it is not something you want to accidentally touch. Also in order to make sure you have that HOT HOT HOT oven temp, you should probably get an oven thermometer. You probably already have one because most home ovens aren't all that accurate. My oven tends to run hot above 400 so I have to set mine to 460 to actually get 475. If you want to try your hand at pizza, you will want a pizza stone or cast iron pan (my preference) and a pizza peel to get in in and out with (relative) ease. Did I mention the oven is HOT? Because it is. 

A note on the types of flour you use: always check what KIND flour the recipe calls for carefully. I tend to prefer unbleached because the chemical process reduces natural flavor and gives the crumb an unsettlingly bright white color. Bread flour, versus unbleached all purpose flour, has more protein and thus ferments and bakes differently. Protein can also vary from flour manufacturers but that shouldn't cause too much of a problem for the home-baker. To illustrate, here is what happens when you use the wrong kind of flour:

Note how the loaf on the right hasn't risen nearly as much as the one on the left

Note how the loaf on the right hasn't risen nearly as much as the one on the left

This was even evident from the first round of fermentation:

The bowl on the right is the wrong flour, the one on the left is the correct flour

The bowl on the right is the wrong flour, the one on the left is the correct flour

After I realized that I had used the wrong kind of flour I mixed up a correct batch but decided to let the first one go just to see the difference, and boy was there a difference! The second batch didn't have nearly as long to ferment as the first and it was still significantly bigger than the first. The recipe I used for that comparison was from the second book I liked: Jim Lahey's My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method. This technique allows the dough to ferment slowly over 12-18 hours so that it becomes unnecessary to do a lot of the kneading to develop the gluten. Other than that the two techniques are pretty similar, it really just depends on how much time you have and how dirty you want to get your hands. Both use a lidded dutch oven to create steam and both turn out beautifully rich, delicious loaves. 

I will be trying new recipes and new techniques so I'll keep you all posted on how they go and which ones are my favorites. Next up are more easy make-at-home body products and a round-up of the best jar-tinting techniques just in time for Spring!

Resolution Solution

Typically, I HATE New Year's Resolutions. The media creates all this trivial hype around the new year and it seems like every company is trying to make money off of people's resolutions. As a result, no one keeps their resolutions. Buuuut this year I happened to have a lot of goals around New Year, so I'm calling them resolutions even though resolutions are dumb.

One of those goals is to adopt a healthier lifestyle. With all the cooking and baking I do, I don't always have the best diet and with my crazy work schedule I definitely haven't made the time for exercise. THUS! My adventures into creating a healthful life that actually fits into my life begins!

First--- Looking at my diet, I need easy breakfasts and lunches that can be assembled and made in less than 15 minutes in the morning before I run out the door. The breakfast that is working best for me so far is a Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie. The following is my recipe...

Ingredients:

  • Frozen fruit medley --blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, frozen makes this an easy year-round endeavor as well as negating the need for ice
  • 2%-full fat greek yogurt --more fat means the smoothie is more likely to stick with you through the morning and you feel more satisfied by the meal
  • Small banana --optional, I like the creamy-ness it adds
  • Green juice --my roommate and I make our own, but you can buy this as well, I like the version made by Naked Juice
  • Flax oil --adds protein

I use a Magic Bullet myself, but any blender will do! You might also want a measuring cup or scoop and a small spatula or spoon

Scoop a little more than 1/2c of frozen fruit into blender. Magic Bullet cups are separate from the blades so I microwave the fruit in the cup for 30 seconds or so to make it easier to blend. If your blender has more horses than mine, you can skip this.

With the spatula or spoon, add 1/4 to 1/3c of yogurt

Pour 1/2 to 1c of green juice to taste

Break up small banana and put on top

Add up to 2tbs of flax oil (or serving size based on the brand)

BLEND!

The great thing about the smoothies is that I don't get tired of them (yet) and depending on what is in season or what you can find in your frozen fruit section, you can change up the flavors however you want. It's also perfect for me since I tend to eat while driving or on the bus. Apparently eating a bowl of cereal on the bus is frowned upon. Whatever.

Of course, having a smoothie for breakfast does not a healthy life make... so this is merely one of many changes I'm implementing in pursuit of nutrition. 

One of my other goals for the year is learning how to make bread, so stay tuned for updates (with pictures!) on my adventures in bread-making!