Friday, July 30, 2010

NFR: Exercise


We would all benefit from it, but why is it so difficult to do?

I need exercise to offset my lifestyle.

1. I bake and cook a lot. By rights, I should weigh 1000 pounds. But I don't.

2. I work from home and am on my computer about 90% of my waking day. A sedentary job.

3. Other than baking and cooking, my primary non-working interest is quilting. Another sedentary task.

I've heard recently that a sedentary lifestyle is not healthy.

The experts also say that if you stick with a physical activity for 3 weeks, then it becomes part of a routine that you can't live without. Oh, really? Tell that to my brain processing center.

Of all the physical activities I'm able to do, walking is my favorite. However, whether I walk for 3 weeks, or 3 months, or 1 year, if I stop for even a day or two, my brain and body forget about it and don't miss it even one iota. It's as if I have never walked at all, or had any interest in it.

So much for the experts.

I'm always looking for that one 'carrot' that will motivate me. Perhaps I have found it now. At least it's worth a try.

There's a quilting blog I follow, Tallgrass Prairie Studio, that inspires me. Jacquie issued a challenge this week -- become less sedentary, walk across the US, and earn fabric. Now, that just could be the right motivator. Most quilters I know are fabric junkies, myself included, although I
readily admit that my fabric addiction started long before I began quilting.

It's a pretty cool deal.

1. You can't let the group down, so it's important to put the miles in each day.

2. You sign in to a really neat website that monitors your progress across the US. Since I only began on Wednesday, I've barely made it to the outskirts of the first town (Yorktown, VA). This research group has been studying exercise behavior for many years. I'm sure I filled out one of their surveys some time in the past.

3. You earn a piece of fabric for every mile logged. That's motivation for sure! I certainly need to pick up the pace.

We're encouraged to post our weekly results on Fridays. In three days I've walked 5 miles. Not very impressive, but I'm still trying to find my groove and carve some extra time out of my day. I must say, though, that the three motivators make a difference.

Next Friday, I'm hoping to be nearer to the next town. Currently, I'm 7.58 miles away from Williamsburg, VA. That's my goal for next week -- get to Williamsburg and beyond.

Lastly, my dog is thrilled. She lives and breathes to walk. And sniff.

Fabric and quilts, here I come.

BBD32: Italian Breads -- Pane di Dieci Cereali

July's Bread Baking Day was hosted by Andrea of Family & Food & Other Things. For the 32nd event, Andrea chose Italian breads as the theme.

This theme gave me an opportunity to go through my Italian cookbooks, looking for an interesting bread to bake. I found the perfect one, Pane di Nove Cereali, in my Il Fornaio Baking Book. I adapted the recipe to match my ingredients and bread baking style, so I ended up baking
Pane di Dieci Cereali.

The dieci cereali must first be soaked.

Then, after mixing, kneading, and two rising periods, the dough is shaped into a boule and dipped in oats.

After the final rise, it is baked to a golden brown.

Following a seemingly forever wait, the bread can be sliced, buttered, and tasted.

Verdict? Nutty, hearty, and delicious.

Pane di Dieci Cereali

Place 1/2 cup ten-grain cereal (or nine or seven) in a small bowl and pour 1/2 cup cool water over the top. Let sit for 1 hour.

Measure 1/2 cup unbleached bread flour, 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast into a large bowl and stir to combine. Make a well in the center and pour in 1 cup lukewarm water, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon honey, and the cereal mixture. Stir together until a stiff dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. This may take up to 20 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and place into a greased bowl, turning so the top surface is coated with oil. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rise at room temperature for between 1 and 2 hours, or until doubled.

Deflate the dough by folding the edges into the center, then turning it over so the top is smooth once again. Re-cover the bowl and let the dough rise a second time until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and once again, fold the edges toward the center. Working in a circular motion, around the dough ball, keep stretching and folding until the top is smooth and tight. Mist the top surface with water, then roll the top and sides in 1/2 cup of oats that have been spread on the work surface.

Place the loaf on a piece of parchment that has been liberally dusted with flour. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven and a baking stone to 400 degrees F.

Sprinkle some corn meal on a baker's peel, then transfer the loaf to the peel. (I placed my parchment on the prepared peel before I put the loaf on, so it was already to pop into the oven.)

Mist the loaf several times during the first 5 minutes in the oven. Continue to bake for a total of 40 minutes, until it is golden and has reached an appropriate internal temperature (between 190 and 200 degrees F). Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Bread Baking Day was started by Zorra, and is hosted each month by a different, talented breadbaker.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

BB: Greek Panzanella

The second July cooking event for the Barefoot Bloggers was a Greek Panzanella, or bread salad.

Wow. This one was a big hit! I've already had requests to make it again.

Once again, Ina has us making croutons
from French or sourdough bread. The light saute in olive oil makes the difference with this salad because the bread keeps a bit of crunch rather than going instantly soggy.

Along with the croutons, you add cucumbers, tomatoes, red and yellow bell peppers, red onion, kalamata olives, and feta cheese. Definitely garden-worthy materials.

I had been hoping for leftovers, but my daughter took the remainder for lunch, always a good sign.

The funny thing was, the next day, when my quilt friends came over for our semi-monthly meeting, one of them asked me, very casually, if I knew of a good recipe for panzanella. She was somewhat startled by my enthusiastic response! I made a copy of the recipe for her right away.

A big thanks to Tara for choosing a really tasty recipe, one that will be made many times.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

BB: Blueberry Muffin Challenge

The first July baking event for the Barefoot Bloggers was a blueberry muffin challenge: coffeecake muffin versus streusel muffin. Which one would prevail?

In my case, neither one.

Sure, they both tasted just fine, and they all disappeared, but the consensus was that both recipes were missing something.

The first muffin was the streusel one. All the ingredients went together well, and I thought it tasted just fine. My only complaint was that they didn't have a nice, muffiny appearance, and for that I blame the pan.

Why oh why do I keep using the silicone muffin pan? Every time I use it, I am disappointed in the outcome. I used cupcake liners, thinking that would help. Nope. They were still flat on top.

The second muffin was the coffeecake one. Thinking maybe the flat streusels were just a fluke, I used the silicone pan again. Flat. Flat. Flat.

The pan has been exiled to the garage. Maybe I can use it for giant ice cubes.

Now, on to the taste tests.

First up was my daughter. She felt that both muffins were missing something flavor-wise. Sugar? Salt? She couldn't pinpoint it. I thought maybe the blueberries weren't tasty enough.

Second tasting, I used my dear quilt friends as testers. The four ladies who lingered after lunch were willing to give me their opinion, so I took one of each muffin, quartered it, and passed the pieces around. Interestingly, they all shared the same thoughts as my daughter. Something was missing. They all thought the muffins were tasty, but not wonderful. Maybe they needed more blueberries? One of my friends even sent me her favorite blueberry muffin recipe, which I will have to make for comparison purposes.

This certainly was an interesting experiment, especially since Ina's recipes are usually spot-on. If you want to try the muffins, click on the muffin link or look in one of Ina's cookbooks. The coffeecake ones are in Family Style; the streusel ones are in Back to Basics. Thanks to Maria of Close to Home for choosing the Blueberry Streusel Muffin, and to Tara of Smells Like Home for suggesting the challenge.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

The task for July's Daring Baker event was to make two Swiss rolls filled with whipped cream, two ice creams, and a fudge sauce. We were given a bit of latitude with flavors.

The cake was an almond-flavored sponge, the ice creams were toasted almond and fresh peach, and the fudge sauce became butterscotch sauce.

While not a difficult challenge, it was time-consuming, and there were a few bumps in the road during the process. When I made the Toasted Almond ice cream, one of my ice cream makers decided to be difficult, so I ended up using the freezer-stir-frequently method.

The two Swiss cake rolls turned out nicely, but they were filled way too full with whipped cream. I followed the recipe, but in future, I would reduce the amount of filling so the poor cake doesn't disappear under the whipped cream.

The butterscotch sauce filling took hours to freeze, but was a success. By the time the whole thing was assembled, it was evening, so I had no choice but to let it sit in the freezer overnight. Less temptation, to be sure!

This certainly is a spectacular dessert and the various flavor combinations are endless. Stop by the Daring Kitchen to check out the interesting variations and to get the recipes for all the components.

I used the basic sponge cake recipe and adapted the fudge sauce by exchanging brown sugar for the cocoa powder.

For the peach ice cream, I used the recipe from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.

For the Toasted Almond ice cream, I adapted the recipe from the Amateur Gourmet., basically omitting the amaretto and increasing the ingredients by half.

TWD: Chewy Chunky Blondies

I've made Blondies a few times before, but this has to be the best recipe of all. While I wanted to be able to share them with my daughter, she does not like coconut, and since I wanted to make these cookies just once with all the required ingredients, I waited until she left town. (She's on an Alaskan cruise with her best friend.)

Without the coconut, I believe my daughter would really enjoy these cookies.

I ended up using unsweetened coconut (toasted), chocolate chips, walnuts, and toffee bits..

My cookie dough was nice and thick.

Unlike a few other TWD bakers, I had no issues with the baking process. It only took about 5 extra minutes until the knife came out clean, and the cookies didn't sink while they cooled.

I did only make half a recipe, using an 8" x 8" pan that I lined with non-stick aluminum foil.

When the main cookie was cooled, I cut it into 24 Blondies. Each piece was packed with all the add-ins, creating a really rich flavor experience.

Thanks to Nicole of
Cookies on Fridays for an easy, delicious cookie choice. I haven't made Blondies in years because I was never thrilled with the recipe. Now, they will go back on my list.

If you want the recipe, head on over to Nicole's blog, and, while you're at it, stop by the Tuesdays with Dorie site to read about the other bakers' adventures.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Watermelon Salad with Lime Dressing

While watermelon tastes just fine on its own, I was looking for a way to add some zing to the plain fruit. I ran across this recipe in the July 2010 issue of Sunset magazine. You make a simple lime syrup and pour it over diced watermelon.

In case you're wondering, yes, there is more than just watermelon in this salad. I tossed in some leftover blueberries and strawberries that were taking up space, thereby turning a plain watermelon salad into something truly delicious.

This has now become my favorite way to serve watermelon.

Zest one lime, placing the zest into a small saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. Peel the white membrane from the lime, then chop the lime into small pieces, adding them and the juice to the saucepan. Cook over high heat until boiling, them remove from heat and cool slightly.

Place 4 cups of large-dice watermelon into a bowl. Add an extra berries you might have on hand. Pour the lime syrup over the fruit and mix gently. This can be served immediately, or allowed to sit a bit to develop the flavors.

Serves 6 (more or less)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Berry Summer Pudding

This past Tuesday was my turn to host our bimonthly small quilt group. Everyone looks forward to these two Tuesdays each month, not only for the camaraderie and latest news, but also for the desserts.

When I sign up to make the dessert, I try to select something a bit unique, and my quilt ladies are game to be guinea pigs. This time I chose Summer Pudding by Ina Garten because it is berry season here and I thought it would be appropriate to showcase the strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries from the local farmers market.

It's a simple recipe that is prepared the day before. You make a syrup with the strawberries, then toss in the blueberries and most of the raspberries, simmering for a minute or two. Then you stir in the remaining raspberries and begin constructing the pudding, alternating layers of brioche with the berry mixture.

After building the pudding, you place it in the refrigerator with a weight (heavy can) on top to compact the layers and help the brioche soak up the liquid. Although the recipe doesn't state this, I placed the mold on top of a small, foil-lined sheet pan. Good thing, too, because the excess syrup overflowed onto the pan. I'd rather throw away the foil and clean the pan than clean out the refrigerator.

The serving portions are topped with whipped cream. While the recipe suggests a rum-flavored whipped cream, I kept mine plain. First, the plain topping helps offset the sweetness of the dessert, and second, one of my friends does not consume alcohol, so for her, I left it out of both the pudding and the whipped cream.

We all loved the dessert. Copies of the recipe went home with my friends. It was great to find a unique and fancy-type dessert that was easy to make and can be prepared ahead of time.

And, yes, it really was a lurid magenta color.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

TWD: Lots-of-Ways Banana Cake

One of the first things I did when I returned from my road trip nearly two weeks ago was to check the TWD baking schedule for July. On the list was a banana cake. On my kitchen counter sat 4 extremely ripe bananas. The first item on my baking agenda, then, had to be this banana cake (good timing!).

I made just one layer, which worked out nicely for the amount of banana I had, and so the eater (me) wouldn't have to consume a huge cake all on my own.

I was a teensy concerned about my 9" cake pans, though. I've had these cake pans for decades. Literally. When I bought them, all cake pans were 1.5 " deep, no more, no less. I can vividly recall the day I baked a Martha Stewart cake, only to watch helplessly as the batter overflowed in the oven. Upon double checking the recipe, I noted that the pans should have been 2" deep. 2"? They made pans that deep? So, out I went in search of new cake pans.

I found some deep 8" pans at the local craft/hobby store. Which to choose, though -- 8x2 or 8x3? Would the baking world fool me again? There was a trust issue apparently.

I bought the 8x3s. I can bake without fear. Except for the 9 inchers. I still haven't updated those pans.

Luckily, even though the recipe called for 2" pans, the cake and I survived. The cake turned out perfectly.

I did add the toasted coconut, which I personally liked, but my daughter wasn't thrilled. She did try a piece, good sport that she is, but only one. I nibbled away at the cake over the next week, cutting pretty little triangular slices, that surprisingly were never photographed.

This is a lovely cake, and it can be made in many varieties. I do plan to make it again, but leaving out the coconut and substituting either nuts or some kind of chip.

Thanks to Kimberly of
Only Creative Opportunities for choosing such a delicious cake. You can find the recipe on Kimberly's blog, and then read about the other bakers' efforts on the Tuesdays with Dorie blog.

Friday, July 16, 2010

BB: Awesome Scalloped Tomatoes

Since returning from my excellent two-week road trip, I've been doing double-duty on the baking/cooking front, catching up and getting ahead. I also had three work-related projects due this week, Monday, Wednesday, and today, so the culinary part of my life had to adapt.

Last weekend I made the Scalloped Tomatoes, one of the June recipes for the Barefoot Bloggers.

First of all, I halved the recipe. I should never doubt Ina's recipes, because they are always delicious and always successful. These tomatoes were no exception.

I could have eaten them all at once, but I wanted to give my daughter a chance at a taste. I wasn't really sure what she would think. At first, she thought I made scalloped potatoes, which meant she was looking forward to cheese. I think she was mildly put-out that it was actually a tomato dish, but being the trouper she is, she tried them.

Well, my goodness. You would have thought this was the best dish ever created on the planet. The leftovers quickly disappeared, and there have been numerous requests to prepare it again.

So, everyone, plant those Roma tomatoes with abandon, for a full recipe will consume 16 ripe fruits. Your diners will be constantly requesting this recipe, so you probably won't have any extra tomatoes to use for sauce or dried tomatoes or any other recipe.

It is that good.

Thanks to Josie of
Pink Parsley Catering for an awesome choice. Follow the link to get Ina's recipe for Awesome Scalloped Tomatoes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

TWD: Brrrr-ownies

'Mint and chocolate' is one of my favorite flavor combinations. Many times when I make my standard brownie recipe (very similar to this one, in fact), I will add in mint chips to jazz it up. I also adore York Peppermint Patties and Junior Mints.

There was quite a bit of discussion over at the Tuesdays with Dorie blog about mint and chocolate, about peppermint patties and brownies, about peppermint patty substitutes, and about the effect of cooking on said peppermint patties.

I probably misread the recipe, but this is what I used:

It was rather like baking with M&Ms. Some melted, some disappeared, most survived and added a nice minty goodness. The brownies were especially good on the second day.

I lined my pan with the non-stick foil, and the brownies easily popped right out. I love that foil. Nothing sticks and the pan can usually be placed back into the cupboard without washing.

A sea of blue and white polka-dot brownies.

We did find the brownies to be rather rich and more sweet than usual, so I cut them into 32nds rather than 16ths. I did give some to my neighbor so we wouldn't be forced to eat them all.

This week's hostess is Karen of
Welcome to our Crazy Blessed Life. She will have the recipe posted for your enjoyment. And, of course, the other TWD bloggers will have plenty to say about how their brrrr-ownies behaved.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Catch-up TWD: Amaretto-drenched Vanilla Cake

Even though I've been back from my road trip for barely five days, I'm still trying to get caught up on work, baking, cooking, house-stuff, meetings, etc.

I missed one meeting today because I had to take the dog to the vet, unexpectedly. They kept her all day and performed some simple surgery on one leg. Poor thing. She is totally out of it tonight; I still have to administer 2.5 pills of medication to her before I go to bed.

She'll go back to the vet on Wednesday for a post-op follow-up. Let's see, how many other deadlines do I have on Wednesday?

Before I left on my travels, I did bake the Rum-drenched/Amaretto-drenched vanilla cake. I just ran out of time to write up the post. The first time I made this cake (can't remember when exactly), I used the rum. This time I decided to try some amaretto. Either way, it was delicious.

So delicious, in fact, that nary a slice was photographed. Just the cake.

Wendy, of Pink Stripes, was the hostess for the cake event. You can stop by her blog or the Tuesdays with Dorie blog to read about everyone's opinion and get the recipe for yourself.

I have a bit more catch-up baking to do, and some travel writing to post. Maybe by next Monday I'll be back on track.