Monthly Archives: April 2011

DIY Furniture #2

Don’t you just love making your house a home by do-it-yourself projects, finding crafty and thrifty ways to furnish and decorate?  I do!  My handy husband and I finished up making our second piece of furniture, a little shelf stand for our master bathroom.  Just like the last one, he did the building and I sanded, primed, and painted.  So fun!

And so nice to have a more finished touch to the bathroom… And additional storage!

I love this little shelf stand!  I found the plan for the Bath Storage Tower on Ana White’s website.

Isn’t it great?  I’m thinking one with a little less wide and deep would be a perfect plant stand for inside the house.  And another of the same size for the mud room, to keep a wire basket for potatoes and another basket for storing onions and garlic would be great!  So many great uses.

What would you love to use this storage tower for?  What color would you do?  🙂

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Pizza Love

I love making pizza!  And who doesn’t love eating it??  I have yet to meet some weirdo person who doesn’t like pizza!  It’s so easy to make the dough, and while it’s rising you can get all your fixings ready.  I recently got a big jar of Kalamata olives and artichoke hearts at Costco, and I’ve made this Greek Pizza three times in the last week!!  It is so delicious.  I spread on a little tomato sauce mixed with a sun-dried tomato pesto I had in the freezer, gave it a nice layer of fresh mozzarella and a little feta, and sprinkled on the Kalamata olives and artichoke hearts.  A delicious set of pizza toppings, great for if you’re a vegetarian or just in the mood for a vegetarian meal.  With the artichoke hearts and the olives this pizza seems meaty, without any meat.  I would love to add on a little handful of pine nuts, but since my body just randomly decided to become allergic to them recently, I unfortunately won’t be adding those on!  So weird, not allergic to anything else, but if I pop a couple pine nuts in my mouth, oh boy do I know it.  Some slivered toasted almonds would be great too, for adding a little texture.

I will note here that if you use any topping ingredients that soak/marinate in liquid and are a little wet, be sure to strain, pat with paper towel, and let set on the counter for a bit so you don’t end up with little water puddles on top of your finished pizza!

The pizza dough I make is one my Aunt gave me quite some time ago.  My cousin has the Pizza Dough recipe on her blog.  It makes enough dough for two pizzas so I knead it, let it rise to double, punch it down, cut it in two, then use one and wrap the second one up and freeze it.  Or if you plan on using the second round of dough within the next day or two, just wrap it in plastic wrap and set it in the fridge.  This week I made enough dough for 6 pizzas, portioned them into little rounds, let them rise once, wrapped them, and put them in the freezer.  So nice to have pizza dough on hand to pull out of the freezer, especially perfect for using on a weeknight.

Some tricks I do to get a very yummy pizza crust:  press it/roll it out thin, so it will be a nice cracker-y thin crust and not too doughy.  Drizzle with a little olive oil.  Have your oven nice and hot, at least 425 F or 450 F, and if you have a pizza stone, have it in the pre-heating oven.  Par-bake it for 7-8 minutes or so, until it just starts getting a golden tint to it.  Then take it out and go to town with your sauce and toppings, and cook to your liking!

So, what are you waiting for?  I hope this inspires you to get cooking, and have fun making pizza!  🙂

Makin’ Lots of Dough These Days

I’ve got into a zone of making a lot of dough, and wanting to keep making more.  I’m not talking about the kind of dough that comes in the green paper form, although that’s nice to make too.  Talking about the nourishing kind, that’s good for the heart and soul, and makes your house more of a home.

I’m working out of one of my top favorite bread baking books, The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum.  This is one lovely book for your bread baking and mastering, I highly recommend it if you already make a lot of breads, or want to learn more and get into it.  I’ve done pizza dough out of this book, along with some quick breads, the Basic Soft White Sandwich Loaf, Basic Hearth Bread, Brioche, and the Mantovana Olive Oil Bread (a great hearty multi-grain with some whole wheat and olive oil, and a local specialty of Mantua, Italy).  When I worked at a local restaurant in Whitefish, I made all the bread for dinner service and did small loaves of Basic Hearth Bread and the Mantovana Olive Oil Bread.  Everyone loved it!  Who wouldn’t love a little basket with two different kinds of warm homemade bread to fill up on before getting your dinner! 😉  I also made the Brioche loaves there for a while for the Sunday Brunch.

I have several pages marked in this book of breads I want to learn more about and have yet to make.  I want to read up on, and hone my skills on Sourdough and sourdough starters (which has a whole chapter all to itself), along with the Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread, English Muffins, Monkey Bread (a cinnamon-y breakfast/dessert kind), Cinnamon Raisin Loaf, Butter Popovers, Beer Bread, Rosemary Focaccia, Ciabatta, and Pugliese.  Just to name a few.  I’m not going crazy and wanting to do too much, am I??

Today I baked three loaves of the Hearth Bread, I just got all giddy when taking it out and having the house smell of fresh baked bread!  I made the dough yesterday and refrigerated the finished dough overnight, and baked the loaves today.  It’ll be great to have a couple of these loaves in the freezer.  I also have a starter for some Heart of Wheat Bread setting on the counter and fermenting right now.

For these kind of Hearth Breads, I usually make my breads in a two day process.
Option 1:

Day 1:  Make the sponge/starter and let rest at room temperature 1-4 hours, then cover bowl tightly and refrigerate overnight, up to 24 hours.

Day 2:  Take starter out, complete the dough making process, portion into equal sized loaves, shape, let rise, and bake.  OR: Make up to a finished dough, refrigerate overnight, and shape and bake on the third day.

Option 2:

Day 1:  Do the process all the way to a finished dough, then cover tightly in a large bowl or container, refrigerate overnight.

Day 2:  Take out of fridge, let rest 1 hour, shape, let rise, bake.

Or, you can do it in one day of course, starting in the morning and baking the bread by evening time.

I probably just made all that sound overwhelming and like too much work.  But really once you get the process down, your active working time is not that much, maybe 1 1/2 hours for the whole process.

So, back to these beautiful loaves!

Spending a day every once in a while baking bread, or even just incorporating the little sections of the process into your day, is so rewarding.  If you’re inspired to get making some lovely loaves, check out Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Bread Bible (or any bread/cookbooks you have on hand!).  She also has a blog, Real Baking with Rose.

I hope you have found some inspiration here for getting busy in the kitchen, and Happy Bread Baking!  🙂

Banana Bread + French Toast

…You really can’t have one without the other!  They’re made for each other. Go together like peas and carrots.  This is the banana bread I made when I worked at the Cafe Kandahar on Big Mountain (aka Whitefish Mountain Resort, it will always be Big Mtn. to me).  Anyway, we made this for the Banana Bread French Toast for the breakfast service, which was served with fresh sliced strawberries and whipped cream.  Now this is not the breakfast you want to have too often, but every once in a while it’s really great for a Saturday morning.

My husband loves this banana bread, the first time I made it for us I couldn’t keep him away from the loaf sitting on the counter!

As for the recipe, well it’s a great one and worthy of passing on and sharing with you.  The source of it is long lost, as when I made this there we had pulled it off the web.

I like to make the double batch so there’s one loaf for enjoying straight out of the oven, and one to put in the freezer for later use.  Even more lovely, make it in the beginning or middle of the week, and you have a slice of banana bread for part of your breakfast for the rest of the week, then still some to use for a special french toast breakfast on the weekend. …(that is, if your hubby or kids don’t get to it all when you’re not lookin’!)

::Banana Bread::
(makes 2 loaves)

3 1/2 c. AP Flour
4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. salt

1 c. unsalted butter, room temp.
2 c. sugar
4 eggs, at room temp.

4-5 bananas, very ripe
1 c. whole milk, at room temp.
2 t. vanilla

{some optional healthy ingredients: 1 c. toasted walnuts or pecans, 1-2 t. cinnamon, 4 T. chia seeds, 3-4 T. wheat germ, 2-4 T. ground flax seeds}

Preheat oven to 350 F,  and butter your loaf pans.
Use creaming method:  Stir dry ingredients in a bowl.  In another bowl, mash bananas, milk, and vanilla together.  Beat butter in a stand mixer til creamy, add in sugar, then eggs one at a time, beat til creamy and fluffy.  Slowly add in liquid mixture and dry mix alternately.  Add in any optional ingredients.  Stir just until blended.  Pour evenly into two loaf pans.
Bake about 1 hour, until golden and a tester comes out clean from the center.   Let cool and transfer to a wire rack.

The last time I made this I added in all of the healthy additions listed above.  It made for some more interesting texture, AND added in a little healthy fiber and folate from wheat germ, omega 6 oil from chia seeds, fiber and omega-3 oil from ground flax seeds, and protein from the nuts.  It turned out great with these added in!

Do you have any favorite healthy and delicious ingredients you like to add in to quick breads and muffins?

Spread on some almond butter and some maple syrup for some delicious flavors. 🙂

Good Ol’ Fried Chicken

…Emphasis on “Good”!!  Ya’ll, this Buttermilk Fried Chicken is the best chicken I’ve ever had.

You might see most young(-ish) couples out on a Saturday night, but Will and I… we’re spending the evening at home and cooking together.  It was great.  I always love to tackle some new, exciting recipe that I haven’t done before.  And Will really enjoys being in the kitchen, cooking with me and being involved.

One of my top three favorite cookbooks I have is Ad Hoc at Home, by Chef Thomas Keller.  It is, like what an absolute favorite cookbook would be, chock-full of great recipes and beautiful photos.  At the beginning of the book is his Buttermilk Fried Chicken, which has been jumping out and calling my name for a while now.  Although I followed his instructions almost perfectly, I didn’t use a whole chicken and cut it into the ten pieces, but rather we just went and picked up a few thighs and a few drumstick pieces as I didn’t have the time this weekend to get a whole chicken thawed out and ready to go.

My friends, it is worth the work and TLC.  We were pretty excited about this dinner while we were cooking, and then while biting in to the crispy, crunchy, juicy, flavorful chicken, I couldn’t stop ‘MMM’-ing and Will was speechless.  I said to him, “I don’t think I’ve ever made anything so delicious!  And I’ve made a lot of delicious things before!”  To complete the meal I whipped up some of my garlic mashed potatoes.

Well enough said.  Here’s a few pictures, and here’s the cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home.  I highly recommend this book, it is AMAZING.  Not only does it contain many, many outstanding recipes, but is very educating on the basics of all you should know in the kitchen.

About to get a mashin'

For the mashed potatoes, I love making them.  One of the first things I learned while working in the kitchen of an upscale fine dining restaurant, was what kind of potatoes to use for what kind of dish.  For mashers, yukon golds are the best since they’re so creamy and buttery.  Reds are good too.

I use:
Red and Yukon Gold Potatoes
Half and Half
Butter
Fresh Thyme &/or Rosemary
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
s + p

In my opinion, all those are a must for mashed potatoes.  I do ’em up restaurant style, rich, buttery, and creamy.  Here I sauteed a tbsp. of minced garlic in a few tbsp. of butter, that makes a huge delicious difference.

Back to the chicken…

Assembly line- seasoned flour + buttermilk coating

All the sizzling

So fun!

Ahh-Maa-Zing!

As for the recipe, well you’re going to get the book, right?!?  Okay, it’s actually on that same link… right here for you.

When I was young and we’d go to Bozeman to visit my grandparents, my grandma would sometimes make Oven-Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy.  I will always remember it.  It was my favorite thing she made, and so I asked her if she’d make it for me for my birthday when I was in the 8th grade.  I also called it ‘Chicken-on-the-Bone’ when I was a kid, so that has kind of stuck in the family and now gets my husband chuckling.  Hey so I wasn’t so sophisticated about it and that’s what I knew it as!  No boneless, skinless stuff for me, thank you!  She did make it for my birthday, and I loved it.  I now have her recipe, although I didn’t follow it totally tonight as I mostly did it from the Ad Hoc book rather than oven-fried, but next time I will make her dish.  …With the gravy of course.

Upon a recent visit with her, we talked about this and boy oh boy does she know her chicken.  She can show and tell you exactly how to butcher it, cut it up, and cook it.  I’ve always heard the story where her and my grandpa were first married and she had to make this big dinner for all the family, having to chase after a couple chickens on the farm, butcher them, pluck the feathers, and cooked away all day, along with a couple homemade pies, for this special dinner.  🙂

I think she’d be proud and I will pass this on as THEE dinner to be made for special family and special times.

A Taste of Italy in the Montana Winter

Last weekend hubby and I made a trip down to Bozeman, MT to spend time with family, go shopping, out to eat downtown, and have some quality time with my grandma.  I love going there, Bozeman is beautiful with lots to do, lots of good food to find, and full of young life and fun happenings as it is a college town.  I spent one semester there before I ended up settling in to the U of M, there are beautiful mountains and a lot of rivers.  Not many lakes, we have all the lake fun up here in NW MT.  Bozeman is kind of like a second hometown to me, it feels very homey, as I lived there for a little while on a few different occasions, and it’s where my mom is from so all of her family is there.  My grandma lives in her house still (on her own, at 88!) on a road out in the country that my grandpa had put in when they had their house built.  Soon after that my three sets of aunts and uncles followed suit and moved out there, so they live right by her, kind of in a triangle 🙂  Actually, all four of them built their home out there, pretty cool.

My Aunt Connie and cousin Nichole own an Italian specialty food store, All Things Italian, which now has my pantry accustomed to quite a few must-haves and cooking staples.  If you love to cook and love Italian foods, you’d love it there.  I love browsing through all the shelves of goodies and seeing what’s new.  …After enjoying a very satisfying Italian sandwich and a latte 🙂

It doesn’t take long to fill up the basket.  We grabbed the usual pasta and jars of soup, olives, and some awesome chocolate, and this time we picked out some beautiful seeds to start planting.  I really can’t wait to start growing these vegetables!

We shopped, went to dinner downtown, and also had dinner at Connie and Chris’s and saw the cute baby chicks and all the plants Chris has getting ready for the greenhouse.  Also visited with my Uncle Lawrence who just finished building a boat for the first time!  It’s very cool, and they’ll soon make the sail to go on it.  And most importantly, enjoyed some quality time with my Grandma Anne…

Family, food, and shopping… it was a great weekend. 🙂

If you ever in Bozeman, MT stop in to ATI and say hi to Connie and Nichole!

More Eye Candy

Some friends of mine recently saw a picture of the last pair of Little Button Loafers I made, and soon after I got requests from two friends asking if I could make a pair for them.  One requested a pair for her friend who’s expecting a baby girl, and the other wanted a pair of baby boy loafers for her sister.  This blue color, Berroco Vintage ‘Chambray’ is so nice for a baby boy.

Aren’t they so cute together?  I added the tan trim around the button flap on both of these and I think it really finishes them off well.

On Ravelry here.