Saturday, February 18, 2012

perfect asparagus

This is one of my favorite things to make when time is short or when I need a green vegetable to complete a meal.   It's simple and doesn't take much time or effort!

What you need...
Asparagus (make as much as you want to feed the number of people you'll be serving)
Lemon Pepper Seasoning
Olive Oil
Baking sheet (preferably with edges)
Aluminum foil (optional)

Set your oven to 425°.

Rinse your asparagus with cool water.

*Helpful Hint: After you've rinsed your asparagus hold it near the end opposite the tip (the thicker end) and gently bend it in an arch until it snaps.  This will get rid of the thicker, stocky part leaving the rest of the tender asparagus for you to eat!
Before                                                       After

Line your baking sheet with the asparagus and then pour olive oil over it.

And then sprinkle the Lemon Pepper Seasoning over the top. 

Bake the asparagus in the hot oven for 7 to 10 minutes (depending on the amount of the asparagus).  Be careful not to let the oil or the asparagus tips burn!  You may want to turn the asparagus half way through the baking time.

Once they are done to your taste, add to your meal.  Personally, I like to leave them a bit undercooked so they remain crisp in the center.  The Lemon Pepper gives them a slightly tangy taste that is so good.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 3, 2012

sourdough starter

I remember cold November mornings at my Grandma's house smelling the delicious scents of pancakes and eggs for breakfast.  My Grandpa would be in the living room with the news paper and a fire in the fireplace.  Those sourdough pancakes were so wonderful topped with a little bit of butter and maple syrup - they literally would melt in your mouth.
I also remember coming home after school during the winter months and smelling fresh baked bread the minute I walked in the door.  Sure enough, coming around the corner, I'd see Mom turning out a fresh loaf of sourdough bread onto a wire rack.
Both of these memories are so fond to me and over Christmas I received a fantastic gift from Mom!  She gave me a glass jar to make my own sourdough starter in (it's just like the one she has).  I've been pretty busy since I got back from my Christmas vacation but, this last week, I got around to making my very first starter.  I'll give you the details below and you will be well on your way to creating your own delicious memories.

What you need...

3 packages of yeast
1 and 1/8 cup warm water (between 120-130 degrees)*
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 and 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (white)
Non-metal container (preferably glass or crockery that does not have an air tight seal)
Pie pan (just in case)

*Yeast is a tricky little thing.  It's very particular and prefers a certain temperature in order to work properly.  Check out this website for a little extra reading about yeast and temp's but, for the starter I'd suggest using a thermometer to check the temp of your water.  I start with warm water, check the temp, then heat the water in the microwave until it's in between 120 and 130 degrees.  Depending on the starting temp of your water it usually takes 20 - 40 seconds to get it just right (again, use a thermometer to get the right reading).

In the container that you've chosen, take the three packages of yeast and dissolve them in the warm water.  I like to use a wooden mixing spoon - metal can react with yeast - to stir it around and get it nice and dissolved.

Add your sugar to the mixture and stir it around.  The mixture will start to bubble and, once that happens slowly add flower until what you have at the bottom of your jar is a smooth paste (it may not take all of the flour).

Cover loosely and set in a warm place.  For me, this meant putting it in the water heater closet.
*Note: place the pie pan underneath the container just in case the starter grows so big it overflows your's been known to happen :/

The next day...
Stir your starter each day for the next 2-3 days.  It will 'grow' and bubble and smell sour - this is OK!! In fact, this is exactly what you want.  If you find that there is a crust on the top of your starter make sure to stir that back into the mixture as well.  If it's over the entire mixture (still ok) think about covering it with plastic wrap - maybe your lid is a little too loose?).

Once your starter has worked for a few days you have some options.
Option 1:
 If you decide to let your starter sit out, find a cool and dark area for it to make its home in.  Once it's been comfortably settled in, make sure to feed it by stirring in 1 cup of flour and 3/4 cup water each day.  After it has grown a few weeks and reached full strength, you only need to feed it once a week to keep it healthy.
*Note: The starter will get pretty big if you're feeding it every day and you may need to either use it or split it off into another container.  This could be a great gift idea - take a few cups of your starter and give it to a friend!
Option 2:
Once your started has grown for 2-3 days you can store it in the refrigerator.  On a note from Mom, she suggests warming it up on the counter and feeding every other week (it has to know that you love it of course).
The same thought goes for when you want to make something with it.  I'd suggest taking out your starter the night before, letting it warm up, feeding it, and then using it in the next day in your recipe.  After you've depleted it, let it sit out for a few days, feeding and stirring it so it can gain back its strength.

There are so many wonderful recipes you can use your starter for including my sourdough pancake recipe.  I'll be adding a sourdough bread recipe soon as well.  Just don't forget to love your starter and take care of it.  It can't survive on its own ;)

sourdough pancakes like Grandma used to make

Who doesn't love a good pancake recipe??  Well, Mom was kind enough to share one with me so I'll take you through it step by step!

What you need...
2 cups sourdough starter 
3 tsp. sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1-2 Tbsp. warm water
Non-stick griddle or frying pan

Take the starter, sugar, egg, oil, and salt and mix together.  Once you've mixed that well set it aside for a second and combine the water and baking soda.  As you let the griddle/pan heat up, mix in the soda and water combo, stir well, and let it sit while the pan heats up.

*Note: If you want to make the entire batch before sitting down to eat then I'd suggest turning your oven on to the "warm" setting and placing a plate in there to put your finished cakes on.  Just be careful when you take it out of the oven - it will be HOT!!

I like to use a 1/3 cup measuring cup that has a little pour spout on it but you can use whatever is easiest to  scoop out the batter and pour onto your hot and preferably greased griddle or pan (I usually coat with an oil spray).

*Note: The batter will most likely be a little 'sticky' so you may want to use a spoon to help you get it out of the measuring cup. 

As the cakes heat up, they will bubble and the bottoms will turn golden brown.  Use a spatula to carefully check the bottom side and, once they turn, flip them over.  The second side usually takes a little less time.

It's the best part: you eat them!  I like to use real maple syrup which you can find online at great stores like the Vermont Country Store or locally you can find good quality organic syrups at Whole Foods.  Feel free to experiment with toppings like jam or honey as well!