Thursday, January 31, 2013

Artisan bread....Rosemary Garlic and Olive Oil....

When I'm making flavored breads I use the basic bread dough recipe that I love (from Betty Crocker) and flavor it because it's a GREAT BREAD RECIPE.

I think it's excellent, the right amount of chewy and firm and elasticity.

These days, I can use all the Elasticity I can get, LOL!

So here's the basic bread recipe and yes, I use this base for cinnamon rolls too. Very versatile...

My bread recipe courtesy of Betty Crocker Cookbook....

2 packets of yeast (I use 2 Tablespoons from my big pack of yeast)
3/4 cup very warm water (Too warm for the baby's bath...)
Mix those two things together, a marriage made in heaven!!!

Then add:

1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
3 Tablespoons Crisco (shortening)
2 2/3 cup very warm water
5 cups flour

3-4 cups flour (added during kneading step)

Mix yeast and 3/4 cup water, let sit a couple of minutes to "work"... then add sugar. salt, Crisco and 5 cups bread flour.... Mix slowly at first, then raise the speed and mix well with regular beater paddle until smooth on medium speed.

Add 3-4 more cups of flour one cup at a time. I find it's usually about 8 1/2 cups altogether for a batch that makes a ton of cinnamon rolls or two nice big 9" loaves of bread. Use dough hook (kneader) to work flour into dough while you chill-lax and do your nails or something. Really, it is pretty darn easy with today's machinery.

Turn out dough onto counter. It's always good if the counter's clean. That is not a necessity, however.

Grease mixing bowl thoroughly. Put somewhat tainted dough back into mixing bowl. Flip it over or grease the top of dough, cover with towel and let rise in warm spot until almost doubled in size. (Depending on temperature this might be half-hour or an hour....)

Punch dough. (Removes latent aggressions)

Divide in half. (Permanent separation, SO SAD!!!!!)   ;)

Okay, now we're to the artisan part. I made this loaf too big, I should have cut the dough into THREE large pieces but I did two... One 9" loaf for cutting and one flavored loaf to make me/us fat.

This is the 9" loaf of bread that will be consumed far too quickly for anyone's benefit.... It's "resting" or "proofing" now... then into the oven it goes at 400 degrees until it's golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped....

Now we're moving into "Artisan" Bread.... and that just means you get to be super creative and have fun.

For this bread I use a piece of dough, olive oil, rosemary/garlic seasoning and sea salt...

And a baby monitor just because it's not good to ignore babies.  I'm just sayin'...


Roll out dough

Coat with olive oil (I used my hands.... Ooooo messy!!!)
Then sprinkle with sea salt.... rosemary/garlic....

And roll:

Bake at 400 for around 25 minutes or so.... I brushed the bread with egg wash twice in the middle of the baking to give it a shiny, store-bought type surface.

And here is the final product!  Doesn't it look wonderful????

This is a couple of hunks of bread broken into pieces with seasoned olive oil dip... I used "Kiss by the Sun" black pepper and herbs seasoning, but any "bread" seasoning will work!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Playing with our Food

Hi everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I don't have anything really great to share.

(Now THAT'S a winning first line, eh??)

 Seriously, the recipe I have isn't really a recipe but more of a peek into the American obsession with fun food. I never really thought about how the rest of the world 'eats to live' while Americans 'live to eat' until I read a book called 'Hungry Planet'. Amazing. Huge picture book of a week's worth of groceries, in dozens of countries around the world. The differences were SHOCKING.

And it made me understand my foreign-born and raised hubby a little better.

But before I get to all that, I have a fun link for Jane Austen's Bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice!! As you can tell, I'll be celebrating all YEAR.


The Everything Austen Daily has some awesome links and articles to what's happening right now. Janeites, unite! (oooh, that rhymes)
Ok, back to playing with our food....
My husband hates the way Americans play with their food. And not just those cute little Pinterest ideas or laughing over inappropriate carrots we find in the garden.

          My sister unearthed these. Cover your eyes, innocent ones! These here are some romantically inclined carrots.

 And he doesn't mind food that is actually going to be devoured and enjoyed... Like these cupcakes. My girls started attending a book club and the first book was 'The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe'. The hostess made these . Aren't they adorable???
And the 'Jack Frost' cookies we made on a day we woke up to loads of frost were fine because the sprinkles and all were edible. So, no big grumbles were heard there.

But what IS hard for my husband is to watch Americans carve pumpkins (because a good pumpkin crop can get a family through the lean winter months in his native country) or make those little Christmas air fresheners from tangerines and whole cloves.
 It drives him bonkers when I make home made play dough. All that flour and salt! That should have been made into something edible! (He doesn't know about the cream of tartar. I won't tell him. That stuff is spendy.)

I don't even make little pretty batches like this...

Ours are the giant mega-batch that takes up an entire fruit bowl.
Ahhhh, play dough in the fruit bowl. The irony!
The more I thought about it, the more I realized we really DO love to play with our food. I like a dish that's fun to make... and fun to eat. It's not just sustenance, it's entertainment. It's definitely a sign of a wealthy nation when we prefer our food to be FUN.

Recently I decided to try artichokes. Why? No reason. Maybe because they were exotic and actually a vegetable that we hadn't tried yet. When I lived in California we ate them all the time. But I didn't think my kids had ever tried them and it might be... yes, fun!

This one was looking a little worse for wear. (Edna was quite skeptical. She told me that even trimming off the edges of the leaves was not going to make this an edible dish.)
After trimming, you gently pry the leaves from the heart. Spread them out so that when you steam the artichoke in a pan of water, each leaf will cook at the same speed. I added lemon to my water. Some people douse the artichoke with salt, pepper and oil before steaming, but I didn't.
About 15 minutes after steaming in an uncovered pot, the artichoke is soft and pliable. You can remove each leaf by tugging gently at the base.

(Side note: my husband's family cooks them by burying them in hot ashes for a few hours, wrapped in banana leaves. It sounds to me like the original crock pot.)
My daughter liked hers dipped in mayo and pepper. *shudder* I just salted mine. You scrape the tender 'meat' from the base of the leaves with a knife (or with your teeth, if you're like us and completely savage).
We cut into the heart of the artichoke to retrieve the very softest pieces. Here's the 'beard', and you can see how closely it's related to thistle down at the center.

My kids were in love with the innards because one of them asked what plant artichokes were related to... and of course we had to look it up. Apparently, they're a thistle! Cultivated for more than a thousand years, found wild in North Africa, improved by the Italians and passed around the world, the artichoke is really just a spiny, edible weed. :) Originally the size of a hen's egg and preserved in syrup, it's now the overgrown monster you find in the local grocery store.

   Anyway, back to the original topic, I'm learning to be more aware of how I prepare food and what I'm wasting just to provide a prettier product.

But still,  I can't resist a little 'entertainment' value in my meals. Here's a tea cup I was gifted recently.

 I don't think she and Edna are getting along. We'll have to see how this all works out. Perhaps dear Goldy is just too flashy for Edna.

So, what's your favorite 'fun' food? It can be edible or not, for eating or just decoration. We promise not to laugh! (Unless it's a pair of naughty carrots...)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tex's Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies

That Yank may be known for her yummy chocolate chip cookies (you can find that recipe here), but around these parts, I'm the queen of chocolate chip cookies. So, at the risk of stepping all over Ruthy's toes, I've decided to share my knock-out chocolate chip cookie recipe. Some of it is similar to Ruthy's, but, like her, I have a few twists of my own.

You're gonna need:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar (if you don't have dark brown, regular brown sugar will taste fine too)
  • 3/4 granulated white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (for me, it tends to be a heaping teaspoon)
  • 2 1/4 cups flour (like Ruthy, I prefer the Better for Bread variety, but all-purpose works great)
  • 4 tablespoons ground flax seed (you can use more, or less, if you like)
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
Cream together your butter and shortening.
Now add your sugars and beat until light and fluffy. This is not light and fluffy. Yet.
Now add your eggs, one at a time, and mix until well blended before adding your dry ingredients. While that's mixing away, I want to talk about cinnamon. I love cinnamon in my chocolate chip cookies. However, my tastes are evolving. I started using  plain old cinnamon. Then I learned about roasted Saigon cinnamon. That stuff is worth writing home about. Just do a sniff test between the regular cinnamon and the roasted cinnamon and you'll smell the difference. Then my SIL turned me on to this company called Penzey's Spices ( They have this fancy Vietnamese cinnamon that is to die for. And their prices are very reasonable. Cheaper than what I paid for the McCormick roasted cinnamon.  I suggest going in with some other folks who like to bake to hit that $30 level so you can get free shipping.
Okay, I'll step off of my cinnamon soap box now and finish these cookies.
Now I add my secret ingredient. The one my kids know nothing about, but is so good for them.
Flax seed. It adds a nice nutty flavor/crunch and they never even notice it.
Stir in your chocolate chips.

Scoop (or drop by tablespoons) onto a cookie sheet .

And bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Notice there are a few empty spaces. Who can resist warm cookies? No one in my house. 
I like my cookies soft and chewy, not crisp and crunchy, which is why I use half butter/half shortening. However, if you happen to like yours crunchy, then by all means, skip the shortening and use all butter.
Cookie break, anyone?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Jan's Cowboy Chili

It's Cowboy time in town!

Bigger than the Christmas shopping season, bigger than the County Fair...and second only to the Sturgis Bike Rally (which brings upwards of a half million people to our area)...

It's the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo!!!

 This is where you buy your new Stetson or Rodeo King hat,

a new pair of Ariat jeans or Justin boots.
 This is where you show off your best stock dog or pick up the pup to start your new line.
You can improve your stock other ways, too - Sunday was the stallion show, later this week will be heifers and bulls.

And then there's the chili cook off.

This is real cowboy chili - the kind you eat from the back of a chuck wagon after a long day in the saddle.

(By the way, you can buy a chuck wagon at the Stock Show, too!)

Meaty, spicy, tomatoey and rich...mmmm....

It makes you want to sink your life savings in a custom made Stetson!

In honor of the Stock Show, I'm sharing my own version of Cowboy Chili.

This is different than any other kind of chili I make - -

...there's Chili con Carne, made with ground beef and lots of chili powder...

...and there's Cincinnati style chili - I like mine 5-way with spaghetti, chili, beans, onions and cheese...

...and, of course, Chili Verde, made with chicken, white beans and green chilies...

But none of them hold a candle to the real thing.

Jan's Cowboy Chili

Start with about 1 1/2 pounds steak. I like to use round steak, or these little chuck steaks.

They're slightly icy in this picture - being slightly frozen makes the meat easier to handle.

Cut the meat into 1/2 inch cubes, and then prepare the marinade.

Marinade ingredients:
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup oil - vegetable or olive
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix the marinade ingredients together, and then pour over the cubed meat in a plastic bag or glass bowl. Put it in the refrigerator and let it marinate for at least 30 minutes - an hour or two is better.

While we're waiting for the meat to soak up all those great flavors, we'll have a peek at the heifers....

After an hour or so, it's time to start cooking the chili.

Drain the marinated meat, reserving the onions and meat.

Brown in a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot, and then add the rest of the ingredients:

2 cups beef broth
2 cans red beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can (14 oz.) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons cumin

Let all this simmer, covered, for an hour or two. Or three. Or put it in the crock pot for a half day or so...

Now, lift the lid and take a whiff. Don't you feel like you're on a cattle drive with the cowboy of your dreams?

And don't forget to stick around for the PRCA Rodeo this weekend!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Angel Pie I from Ruthy's Historic Bedford Collection

I've talked about how I love old cookbooks.... I even published a roasted possum recipe last year just to make youse cringe!!!

It was kind of fun in a sick, twisted way.

And there was cringing going on.

Well, this old cookbook is from the well-to-do area north of New York City. Put out by the Bedford Garden Club in 1953 (yes, before we were born!!!), these ladies earned money from the sale of the book to plant pretty flowers in their historic town.  I love flowers and old recipes, so this book was a double-win for me!

I found it at an antique cooperative while researching His Mistletoe Family (yes, that's a live link to Amazon, they have His Mistletoe Family in paperback and on Kindle!!!) and had to buy it. It was $4.

FOUR DOLLARS for a gem like this!!!!!

Anyway, I've been leafing through the recipes and today we're doing the "Angel Pie I" from Mrs. Robert Grosjean. Most of the ladies signed in appropriate Miss Manners style, using their husband's names after the "Mrs."... In her notes for this recipe, however, she writes "Stolen from a Norwegian cook."

Clearly she and I think alike!!! I did some research on the ladies involved in this endeavor, but none of the ones I searched for online are still living... and the Garden Club itself is gone, although a new one has been started.

And if you've never been to the areas north of New York City, the sprawling hills, streams and mountains that climb northward, it is a beautiful and historic trip. Just gorgeous! Think "Last of the Mohicans" kind of gorgeous. "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" kind of beautiful. Wonderful towns and villages.... Anyway, this book is filled with gems to share, recipe ideas you just don't see in today's cookbooks. And that's what makes it so delightfully special!

Angel Pie I

Stolen from a Norwegian cook (I love this line every time I see it!!!!)


4 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup sugar

Beat 4 egg whites with 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar and 1 cup sugar. Beat stiff. pour into 9" pie plate and bake in slow 300 degree oven for one hour. Light oven as you put in shell. Let cool.

This is the raw meringue in the pie pan...

Baked for 1 hour at 300 degrees....

And it falls a little as it sits to cool:

Filling: Original recipe (This is not the one I used... Mine is below)

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons lemon rind

Combine egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, salt, lemon rind (grated very fine). Cook in double boiler until thick. Let cool.

Ruthy note:  I'm making this now, and I'm changing the filling to a more traditional lemon pie filling. This original filling is more like a "lemon curd" and I thought hmmm.... a filling for ANGELS should be splendorific. So here's what I did instead:

Lemon filling:

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup water
4 egg yolks, mixed with fork in medium sized bowl
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons butter

Mix and cook until boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Then slowly add this mixture to 4 beaten egg yolks.... (Do this slowly so you don't "cook" the egg yolks).

 Return to pan. Bring back to a boil for one minute, stirring like crazy. Do not start Virginia Carmichael's delightful book "Season of Joy" it will DISTRACT you and you'll burn this wonderful filling. So don't do that.

Remove from heat. Whisk in the lemon juice and the butter. Chill.

Whipped cream:

 16 oz. heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar

Whip 16 oz. of heavy cream and 1/2 cup sugar until stiff peaks form.

Cover cooled meringue pie shell with whipped cream.

Add lemon filling and top with more whipped cream. (Already this could be nothing but GOOD, right????)  Place in refrigerator for 6 hours before serving.  Heavenly company dessert after a fairly light meal.  (Note that it's a heavenly STOLEN dessert... :)

This is the pie shell filled with whipped cream....

And now the lemon filling....

And here is the final product:

Now we must chill this thing.... but that's okay, we need to eat something nutritious like CHILI!!!!


I love winter foods!

Next week we're going to do Angel Pie II that adds other fruit to the lemon custard mixture. And Angel Pie II DOES NOT APPEAR TO BE STOLEN.... Not admittedly, anyway!

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Most Special Secret Ingredient

Big K's Sloppy Joes

from Missy Tippens

Missy, here. And I'm going to share a very special recipe that includes a secret ingredient. But first...let me back up just a bit...

My oldest son and his friends from the church youth group spent their high school years hanging out at his friend Kerri Ann's house. Hers was the house where everyone loved to gather on weekends and all summer long. And the parents (good friends of ours; the mom Alice works with my husband at the church) always fed them and loved on them like a second set of parents. Everyone calls her dad Big K (his name is Kerry), and they LOVE Big K's sloppy Joes.

Since my son loved those sloppy Joes so much, they always sent the leftovers home with him. So I got to enjoy them as well (within limits, since my eldest would threaten me not to eat more than one!). I have to say, there really is something special about Kerry's recipe!

I finally got the recipe (approximate amounts since he usually makes a huge batch and since I was getting this by phone from Alice) and made them last week. I'm going to share.

Big K's Sloppy Joe's

1/2 small onion, diced
1 pound ground beef
approx. 1/2 can evaporated milk
approx. 1/3 cup ketchup ("enough to get rid of the white look from the milk") :)

Cook onion in a little oil until transluscent. Add beef and cook until browned. Drain off fat. Add the evaporated milk ("pour in enough that it's milky colored but not too wet.")
Stir in the ketchup until you get rid of the whiteness.

I love recipes like those, almost like painting or doing some sort of craft. :)

Serve on very fresh, soft buns.

You may be thinking that the evaporated milk is the secret ingredient. It's certainly surprising, and is what makes these unique. But read on to find the secret...

So I made these for dinner last week. I was so excited to finally try this recipe. My kids were excited, too, since my two younger kids have also enjoyed Big K's famous sloppy Joes at youth suppers at the church. Yet, I have to admit they were skeptical that mine could possibly be as good as Big K's.

So we sat down at the table and had the big tasting. My middle child didn't look impressed. So I asked, "Don't they taste like Kerry's?"

He shrugs and says, "I think he puts good memories in his."


There you have it. The secret ingredient is GOOD MEMORIES. The fun times at Kerry and Alice's house or at the lake. The fun times at youth suppers, cookouts and retreats. The love that goes into each batch Kerry makes.

So what about you? What recipes do you have that include good memories?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Aunt Bea's Banana Cake

So I love family. And today while it's cold and snowy, I was thinking of all the cool family stuff I've learned to appreciate over the years.

Fights on Facebook, notwithstanding!!!!

Here is a gratuitous pic of my Yankee winter this week:

And here's one of my big maple tree. I love this tree, in a very Anne of Green Gables and the cherry tree kind of way:

So yes, back to family. I love the whole concept of family

My family, Dave's family, your family. I just love how weird and normal we all are and how we manage to function even though every sibling is different from generation to generation.

There's a reason God ORDERED us to love our brothers and sisters.

Well Aunt Bea is a great person and every year for the Eichas Family Reunion she'd make her famous banana cake. She's also my husband's Godmother and she's got gorgeous soft, blue eyes, heroine-type eyes, know what I mean???

And every year I would WAIT for that day to eat Aunt Bea's banana cake.  Now back in the day you wouldn't DARE nip into desserts first. It wasn't done.


I'm older, wiser, and have learned the truth about "Eat Dessert First"!  As the aunts and uncles aged, my generation started making more and more of the main course foods. But Aunt Bea still made her banana cake.  One year she gave us the recipe.

OH. MY. GOSH. I was so stinkin' excited!!!!!  YAY!!!!!!  I could make Aunt Bea's banana cake! Happy days are here again!!!!!

Well, I blew it. STUPIDLY. Instead of reading the recipe and following it, I used regular flour. DUMB.  But I have seen the error of my ways. I had Dave buy a couple of boxes of SoftasSilk flour mix when Jan Drexler (LOVE YOU!!!) told me to get cake flour in the house.

So this week I had bananas and a hankering for Aunt Bea's cake and when I dug that old recipe up, I realized the mistake instantly....  I'd used regular flour.

This time I followed the recipe exactly (although I soured milk with lemon juice, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice in a measuring cup, then filled the cup to 2/3 full with milk and let it sit on the counter for 5 minutes... well, ten or so because I got talking.... :)

So here it is and I topped it with the whipped cream frosting recipe that Tex shared on Monday.... that was the frosting recipe Aunt Bea always used, too, although hers called for shortening instead of butter. I like the butter version better.

Naw, I won't make you work from that, but isn't it a hoot?

Aunt Bea's Banana Cake

2 1/4 Cup Softasilk flour
1 2/3 Cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
3 eggs
1 1/4 Cup mashed ripe bananas
2/3 Cup shortening

Put all into a big bowl.

Blend or beat for 3 full minutes.

You may have to look far and wide to find banana mashers as cute as mine. This is Brody (on left), 'Lijah and Meggie (on right) and they're mashing the bananas.

For no pay.

Child labor!!!!!  :)  Of the best and most wondrous kind, right?

 Bake in greased/floured 13 x 9" pan for 30 to 40 minutes.... Mine was about 34 minutes. The top browns more than traditional cake, but a normal cake test of a toothpick inserted into the  middle works well.

 Aunt Bea always said the secret to why hers was so good was that she pulled it out of the oven a couple of minutes early.... That may be true, but using the right FLOUR would have helped me years ago. In my lame defense, when I first got this card I didn't even know a thing called "Softasilk" existed, so my card has "soft silk" flour....  But that's no excuse for messing up a perfectly good recipe!!!

Here is the link to Mindy's version of the whipped cream frosting Aunt Bea always used:  (on some of your computers it's actually two days/posts below this one so you can scroll down)... "The Texan's Whipped Cream Frosting"