When you wake up at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, and it's already 71 degrees with 87% humidity, don't you just want to turn on the oven and bake some bread? Call me crazy, but that's what I did this morning. I've been in a bread baking mood all week, but it's just been too hot to turn on the oven. Last night was pretty tolerable, though. I thought I'd get ahead of the game and throw some stuff into the bread machine so I'd have dough in the morning. My logic was that it wouldn't be too hot to bake by around 8 or 9.
I got out my trusty copy of "Smart Bread Machine Recipes," which I wrote a bit about in this post a few weeks ago. Since I was leaving ingredients in my bread machine all night, I needed a recipe with no eggs, dairy, or anything else that could spoil at room temperature. Here's the recipe I chose, to make one pound of dough:
Peanut Butter - Molasses Bread
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
3/4 teaspoon yeast
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoon unsulphured molasses
3/4 cup water
I put the ingredients into my bread machine pan in the order its manufacturer suggests (liquids first, then sweetener and salt, followed by flour, then yeast on the very top). I put the machine on the "dough only" cycle and set the timer so it would be ready at 8 this morning. You can, of course, multiply the ingredients by 1 1/2 or 2 times to make 1 1/2 or 2 pounds of dough.
Because of the humidity, I was a bit afraid the dough would be too sticky. I thought wrong. At 8 this morning, I had a beautifully risen, perfectly textured lump of dough in my machine. I punched it down, turned it out onto a floured surface, and let it rest for about 15 minutes. I then divided the dough into 12 little balls and arranged them ever-so-neatly in a round cake pan.
I love single-serving, grab-and-eat foods, so I often make rolls instead of loaves of bread. I let the rolls rise for about 40 minutes, until they looked like this:
Meanwhile, the oven was preheating to 350. When the dough was beautifully puffy, as in the above photo, I baked them for about 15 minutes, until they looked like this:
The rolls are so yummy -- soft, moist, slightly sweet, and slightly peanut-buttery -- the perfect vehicle for some good all-fruit jam. Voila! Instant peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! And they're cute, too. =)
It's hard to tell from this picture, but these are mini European cucumbers. Or English cucumbers. Or seedless cucumbers. Or burpless cucumbers. They go by many names. I think it's a regional thing. Whatever you choose to call them, I can't call them anything but cute! The longest one might have been six inches long, and they're a little less than an inch in diameter. I love European cukes. They're crisp, crunchy, and best of all, not waxed! When I saw these minis in the store, I just couldn't resist.
They came up on the receipt as "European pickling cucumbers," which scared me. The pickling cukes my parents used to grow were bitter, but made damn fine pickles. I was afraid the same would be true for these. It wasn't. They taste just like their adult counterparts.
Saturday night I made a very simple salad out of these. I sliced them into thin-ish slices and put them in a storage container. I threw together a few dashes of sushi vinegar (that's just rice wine vinegar with sugar and salt added), a couple splashes of ginger flavored soy sauce, and a drop or two of toasted sesame oil. I poured the dressing over the cukes, let them marinate for a while, and served them to my family. They were a huge hit. You may remember that I also served lasagna that night. It was a bit of a culture clash, but somehow it worked.
Tonight I set out to make more of that salad for myself. It's hot and humid here again, and it seemed like the perfect thing for supper. I thought I'd try something I've seen on Food TV countless times, but never dared to try -- after I sliced the cukes, I put them in a colander and liberally sprinkled them with salt. The theory is that the salt will leach out a good portion of the water so that the cukes will stay crunchy, and not make the salad watery. The reason I never tried this before is because I was afraid the cukes would get too salty, even after rinsing. They did. How disappointing. I went ahead with my salad prep anyway, thinking the dressing would drown out the saltiness. It didn't. I added a bit of Sucanat (unrefined sugar -- I don't keep much white sugar in the house!). It helped a little. Here's what it looked like in the end...
"Too Cute Cucumber Salad"
It's still quite a tasty salad, but still a bit too salty for my taste. I'll probably add a bit more Sucanat before I eat the rest. And I will never salt sliced cucumbers again... even if Alton Brown does say it's the thing to do.
Remember this post where I was drooling over a Bundt cake pan I had seen in a catalog? Well, Kev and I went to The Good Table in Belfast (Maine, not Ireland!) on Monday, and look what I found!
It's the Nordic Ware cast aluminum "Cathedral" Bundt pan. Isn't it just so Goth? Not that I'm a "Goth," but it's so cool. It makes me think of all the beautiful old churches I've seen in Europe.
This seems like a pan worthy of a decadent, ooey gooey, totally unhealthy cake. Not that there's anything wrong with my banana cake, but I think I want something a bit more exotic to make for this pan's inaugural use. Last week, Mariko of "Super Eggplant" put out a plea for the perfect chocolate cake recipe. And now it's my turn. Do you have a perfect Bundt cake recipe? A few from "All Recipes" have caught my eye, but I'm open to suggestions!
I saw on "Confessions of a Foodie" this morning that my favorite candy is 75 this year. Kevin and I celebrated accordingly (we really only ate a few apiece -- but the whole package looked pretty good spread out on this plate!).
I couldn't confirm an actual date of invention, but Twizzlers definitely came to be in 1929. Yay!!! Within his post, Tom asked "what's your favorite flavor?" He listed eight, four of which I'd never heard of. And as far as I'm concerned, if it's not strawberry, it's not a Twizzler.
Lasagna. Who doesn't like it? And who doesn't like it even more when someone else makes it for them? I decided to cook supper for Kevin, my parents, and my nephew (who's visiting from San Diego) tonight. My mother was thrilled to hear that news, and even more thrilled that I was thinking about making lasagna. Kevin even stayed home an extra day for it! =)
Here's my recipe for "Impress Your Friends and Family Lasagna:"
1. Buy a box of Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles.
2. Follow the recipe on the box, but leave out the ground beef and substitute lots of chopped veggies.
3. Bask in the glory of the compliments you receive when others eat it.
When I make lasagna for Kevin and me, I usually use shredded carrots, diced celery, diced onion, and diced bell peppers (red, green, both, neither... whatever suits my fancy that day). I chop them, mix them up in a bowl, and put a couple handfuls in with each cheese layer. My dad, however, is a Celery Hater. He won't go near anything with celery, celery seeds, or celery salt. Bearing that in mind, can you believe that when he built our house circa 1973, he painted my bedroom walls CELERY green? That's actually what it was called! And yes, it was as hideous as it sounds. I finally talked him into repainting about ten years later. Anyway... to compensate for not being able to use celery in tonight's meal, I used the following veggies: carrots, red onion, green bell pepper, orange bell pepper, and tomato. The tomato was a new twist for me. I figured, I like it on pizza, so why not in lasagna? It all worked out very well. Everyone was duly impressed. Even Kyle complimented me! How many 7-year-olds do you know who comment on someone's cooking? He's such a good kid. =) Here he is, posing for the camera:
He's quite a ham.
That's the only picture you get tonight. The lasagna, as tasty as it is, is just not photogenic. I won't tell you exactly what the picture I took looked like, but Kevin said it looked like something out of those driver's ed movies they show you about wearing your seat belt and such.