Thursday, February 21, 2013

Local Business - BrewBakers

In the Keene, NH we have so many great local businesses I thought I should feature some. I decided to start with this breakfast/lunch cafe, BrewBakers, because I used to work there. It was hands down my favorite job. Ever. It's just busy enough, just cool enough with out making you uncomfortable if you forgot to wear your cool hat that day, and it serves locally roasted organic coffee and espresso.

Window Seat Doodles/Rooibos Tea

The front window seats are the most sought/fought passively over. The cafe sits half a story up from street level so you get a wonderful view of whats going on in town.
Also, the owner of the cafe originally started out by making this brick oven sourdough bread that is coveted! They use it for they're lunch sandwiches, so you need to buy a whole loaf to get a taste...
Signing off in the bathroom mirror!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cocoa Banana Bread

 This morning was beautiful! The sky was bright, the sun was big and yellow, and it was just breezy enough to keep things awake. Which was good because it was 7:30 and I had until 9:15 to make breakfast for us girls, eat it, make this divine bread, clean up the living room, fold the clean diapers and pack up dinner and the vacuum for a friend that just had a baby. I left the dinner, brought the vacuum back...
I'm sure you've probably made banana bread before. It's kind of sticky, very sweet and pretty much every other banana loaf you've had. Which is fine! If that's what you want. But if you want something else, let me propose you try Dorie Greenspans Cocoa-Nana bread. Recipe to follow. Let me ramble first.
If you're like me you never have ripe bananas when you need them, and the bananas are always brown when you have no time. So freeze them. I use the bags on the left in the above picture to freeze two bananas together and then I'm ready. It makes about 1 cup of mushy banana. Also, save your butter wrappers. Room temp butter leaves plenty on the paper to grease your pan...

 This particular recipe uses a delightful ratio of cocoa to flour. 1 cup of cocoa to 2 cups of flour! You must try. You just have to. So take your butter out of the fridge and come back in a couple hours to bake this bread.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semisweet cocoa powder (I used unsweeetened and it was deliciously bold)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 stick of room temp butter, and wrapper
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large bananas, mashed, ripe
3/4 cup butter milk, or yogurt, plain

additions: 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped walnuts, toasted hazelnuts, pecans, more chopped chocolate(!)

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9x5 loaf pan and place on two baking sheets stacked to keep the bottom from cooking too fast.
Mix the dry stuff.
Beat your butter at medium speed until light. Add sugars and beat a couple more minutes. Add eggs and between after each one. (It may look lumpy or curdled, it's ok, it will come together).
Turn mixer to low and mix in the bananas. Add dry stuff in three additions, mixing until it's barely incorperated. Add buttermilk or plain yogurt and mix. Stir in additions, and scrape into pan.

Bake for 30 minutes. Loosely tent with aluminum foil to keep from getting too dark and bake another 40 or 45 minutes, until a sharp knife comes clean. Transfer to a rack and cool at least 20 minutes before running your knife along the edges and carefully inverting to remove and cool right side up.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fast Dinner Ideas for a Busy March!

Here's my little souz-chef helping me with the dinner prep. She's got a mean stirring arm!

We just sat down and made up our aux pioneer schedule for March, and it includes two afternoons a week from 3:30pm to 5:00pm. That means I am on the look out for some good easy but legitimate dinners! I thought I'd share some of my current stand-bys, and I hope you share some back...:)

Gussied up Macaroni and Cheese

We like to use Annie's boxed Mac n Cheese wihen we're sqeezed for time. But I add some extras.
My favorite additions are half a head of kale torn up and added to the pasta water for 5 minutes, along with some chopped up mushrooms that I can sautee while the pasta and greens are cooking. Hardboil some eggs while everything else is going on and it all comes out done at about the same time. Salad on the table and dinner done in 15 minutes!

Sweet Potatoes (thanks to Mom and Dad for this idea)

We started doing this dinner in December and it's been a great winter meal. The potatoes bake for about 1 1/2 hours, so if I put them in at 3:30 they're done when we get home.
I put a bag of spring salad mix on the table with some cottage cheese and it's warm, filling. Plus, very two year old friendly. Nice at the end of a long day.

Loaded Nachos

The title says it all. For our house, one half is vegetarian, and there's that salad mix on the table again. Add some fresh salsa and you're done.


Quiche (of all sorts)

Quiche is basically scrambled eggs and cheese baked in a crust. Crustless if it's a really crazy day. Quiche is one of those things that you can always throw together (because you always have eggs!) and it's usually amazing. If you have left over vegetables from another meal, throw them in. A small amount of meat that isn't enough to do anything else with? Chop it up and add that, too. Just remember one thing: you need as least one flavorful ingredient.. Add lots of sauteed garlic, or use parmesan or feta instead of cheddar or mozzarella. Sprinkle some extra cheese on top and when that's slightly browned you know it's done.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Not Your Grandmothers Brussels

Looking to eat more vegetables? Me, too. But maybe a cold salad isn't exactly appealing in February?
Yeah. Well, try this. Saute halved sprouts with garlic for about a 2 minutes. Splash some white wine in the pan and cover until they're as soft or crunchy as desired. I sprinkle mine with feta and pecans, along with salt and pepper. But you could take it all sorts of places. Parmesan with lemon zest, chili flakes, etc. It's so warm and comforting, and it's feels good knowing it is good. On the inside.

Rustic pear almond cake with chocolate

I am calling this cake rustic because the batter is more of a quick bread recipe, but it bakes up light and tender, and the crunchy/sparkling almond topping gives it an addictive texture.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cups sugar
2 eggs and one egg white
1 stick of butter, melted, cooled
2 ripe pears peeled and sliced
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chunks or chips (keep the bag handy for snacking)
1/2 cup sliced almonds divided
preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9x9 baking dish with butter.

wisk first three dry ingredients.
Beat eggs with sugar about two minutes in a large bowl. Add butter and beat well.
Mix with dry until just combined.
Spread half the batter in pan. Lay half the pear slices  evenly over the batter and sprinkle with half the chocolate. Cover with the rest of batter and repeat with pears/chocolate.
In a food processor mix 1/4 cup almonds with 1/4 sugar until finely ground. Add egg white and mix til smooth. Drizzle over cake and finish with the rest of the almonds.
Bake about 25/30 minutes, or until a toothpick or very sharp knive comes clean. (I never seem to have a toothpick around when I need one...)

Weekend SnowStorm- Crispy French Toast, Sourdough Bread, Rustic Pear Chocolate Almond Cake

 There are so many good foodie bloggers, the last thing I want to do, even if just for my own self-esteem, is feel like I'm competing with them. But the one thing I create every day, no matter how busy, is food.
 This weekend we've been delightfully blustered by a nor-easter. We were supposed to be having friends over last night so i spent most of the day baking sourdough jalepeno cheddar bread, pear almond chocolate cake, and andoulie kale and white bean soup. And it hadn't even started snowing hard enought o be called Snowed In!
 So, this morning we woke at the liesurely time of 7am, and I made french toast. French toast always makes me think of my Dad. His always seems to turn out exactly like french toast should, but somehow I can never remember how that is.
This morning I tried an idea I had seen of crushing cereal and dipping the egged bread into the crispy bits before friying it. It had potential, but the cereal held the bread above the pan surface so that it stayed soggy. Now that I've spelled it out like that, maybe the potential was only in my mind...
Anyways, it felt good it eat while the sun was fully above the horizon without any cars on the road outside.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Easy-Peasy Sourdough

This bread is flabbergastingly easy to make. And if you're someone that likes good bread this could literally be a life-changer. And it has saved some friends of mine over forty dollars a month.
You can find a great video on TheStoneSoup
Some notes on variations:
She makes a very wet dough that spreads out into a thinner loaf. This gives you a lot of surface area for a good crusty bread. For sandwiches, though, I add more flour and shape it into a soft oblong loaf that stands up more is a little less pocketed with air holes.
So if you're not sure what you like I would highly recommend giving yourself license to play around with the water to flour ratio. And however you do it, it's soul-soothingly amazing hot with butter.

Wrapping My Hands In Wool...

It's cold, still. It should be cold for another two and a half months at least. I really don't mind, either, as long as I feel like I'm using this time of year differently than other times.
In the summer I don't usually feel like baking sourdough bread in a 500 degree oven for 45 minutes, so I've been doing a lot of that...
In summer I really don't want to spend an hour catching up on the ironing when I could be outdoors, so I'm trying to keep up with the crumbled dress shirts...
And I really don't want to wrap my hands in wool when it's anywhere over 70 degrees, so I've been knitting a sweater for a friend whose baby is due tomorrow.
As you can see, I still have a quarter of the way to go, but it's a little bigger than newborn size (depending on the size of the newborn, I guess), so it can wait a bit. I think I can get it done this week/wkend. Hoping!
So, here's hoping the baby comes hearty and healthy, and when it's a little bit bigger it can be wrapped in raglan wool... hopfully before it's 70 degrees outside.