Sunday, January 20, 2013

Honey wheat apple crostata

It is so rewarding when I am feeling a little brave and try to make a bread for the first time. Baguettes were a big deal the first time, and bagels were fun, too. In the upcoming year, as I am choosier about eating breads, I hope to make breads more and start a bit of a collection of tricks I can store in my baking bag. Today, we will share a crostata.

This is not a difficult pastry to make. It's rustic, warm comfort food. In case ya didn't know, a crostata is a rustic Italian pie, usually filled with fruits like cherries or peaches, sweet ricotta cheese or anything else you like. It's pretty but not perfect. It's humble but beloved. Let's make one!

I learned the basic way to make the crostata dough from Joann from Alforno Restaurant via Martha.
Then, thinking a little more fiber and all of that would be helpful, I've changed it up a little using whole wheat flour. Here we go.

Honey wheat apple crostata
This crostata is rustic, hearty and Italian comfort dessert at its best. The baked apples and wheat flour dough bake to a golden brown, giving off a "honey" taste in each bite. Enjoy on a cold winter night or a snowy morning in.
Makes 2 small (7-inch) crusts or 1 large crust

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup white sugar
2 sticks butter, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup cold water

Step one: In a food processor, pour in flours, salt and sugar. pulse a few times to combine. Then, add the butter and pulse until crumbled. Next, add cold water while pulsing. Dough will be very crumbly.
Step two: Lay down flat a piece of plastic wrap. Pour dough onto the plastic wrap and wrap up. Push dough together into a disk shape. Let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (or up to 3 days). 
 Step three: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take the dough out of the fridge and lay on a floured surface. Roll out to a large circle or square. (Remember, this is rustic. Put your perfectionist hat aside and have fun!) Transfer dough to a nonstick baking sheet.
2 apples of any variety, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup white sugar
1 TB flour

Step four: In a  medium bowl, combine the apples, cinnamon, sugar and 1 TB flour. Pour the filling onto the center of the crostata dough, leaving 1 to 1 1/2 inches of dough clear around the edges. Starting with one side, roll up and over, folding the next side over the former side (see photo). Be sure at least half of the fruit is exposed.
Step five: (optional egg wash: Beat an egg in a bowl and use a brush to lightly brush all areas of the dough exposed.) Bake at 375 degrees for one hour. Serve warm for breakfast or dessert (with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream).

Happy eating!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Creamy Non-dairy Potato Soup

I have the best of intentions, really I do.
  1. I narrow down 20 amazing pumpkin recipes to try. I end up making 1, maybe.
  2. I plan to do 4 loads of laundry on my day off. If I'm lucky, I take the baskets to the laundry room...or at least look at the clothes longingly, hoping they'll wash themselves.
  3. I map out a trail near our house for an hour-long run. Wait, where in the world are my running shoes? I haven't seen them in weeks.
Sometimes, things don't go as planned. Okay, most always things don't go as planned. For the last few fall/winter seasons, I plan on making batch after batch of yummy delicious soups. It has yet to happen. But today is a new day. And, with all that planning, sometimes we're the most productive when we make no plans or To-Do Lists at all. Today was one of those days.

I made potato soup. Creamy, dreamy, potato soup without a drop of milk or cream. And, since I was home all afternoon/evening, I really took my time with it (AKA Our Crockpot did all of the work.). 6 hours of slow cooking. And I'm pretty sure this is a recipe you can cook overnight or during the day while you're at work. EASY! Matt is pretty honest with my cooking (everyone needs honesty), but he usually leans on the side of sweet and positive. But he wanted me to specifically type this quote in the blog..."some of the best soup I've (he's) ever had" and "restaurant quality." Heh, he's sweet. I just thought it was darn easy and pretty tasty. And no planning was involved, just 2 trips to the store because I forgot chicken stock. Oh, woe is me.

Cozy Potato Soup

Ingredients: 1 yellow onion
3 garlic cloves
3 TB butter

6 russet or Idaho potatoes
7 cups reduced sodium chicken stock (or veggie or beef)
1 1/2 TB Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 t. sea salt (or to taste)

Slow cooker (medium to large sized)
Wooden spoon
Microwave-safe bowl
Step One: Chop the onion and garlic. Cut the potatoes into 1-inch cubes and set aside.

Step Two: Heat the pan on medium-high heat. Add the butter to the pan and coat the pan with the melted butter. Toss in the onions with a pinch of salt; cook for 2 minutes. Then, add the chopped garlic. Stir and let cook until soft and lightly browned, a few minutes. Pour 1-2 cups of the broth into the saute pan and stir around, allowing the broth to pick up all of the small bits at the bottom of the pan.

Step Three: Turn the slow cooker onto high. Transfer the broth mix to the slow cooker. Cover.

Step Four: In a microwave-safe bowl, cook the potatoes on high for 7-10 minutes or until tender to the touch. Transfer 1/2 of the potatoes to a blender (or large bowl and use an immersion blender) and blend potatoes until they become creamy thick mashed potatoes. Transfer the mashed potatoes to the slow cooker.

Step Five: Take the other 1/2 of the cut potatoes and pour into the slow cooker. Add the seasonings and the remaining stock. Stir and salt to taste. Let sit for at least an hour, covered, and serve piping hot.

chopped chives
garlic powder
shredded cheese
thin zucchini slices
kale chips
sour cream
bacon/fake bacon/sausage
cooked broccoli
tortilla chip crumbles

NOTE: If you don't have Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute, just add a medley of your favorite savory spices. Ideas: onion powder, chili powder, basil, oregano, or even smoke flavoring.

Happy slurping!
Happy New Year!

How has it started out? Have you pigged out on leftover Christmas treats or did you manage to back off and stick to a month of green smoothies?

Either way, I hope you are having a great 2013. My parents came to Portland for a week, which was great, and Matt & I have been enjoying the holiday season and thereafter. The weather here is much like Houston, where I grew up...unpredictable. Except it is a little more extreme here. One day, it's 34 and the next day it's 54...but the degrees don't matter. If it rains, it changes everything. But I'm not minding the rain so much now. We'll see. :)

Matt & I have been cooking, cleaning and just enjoying time together. We are fairly settled at this point...I can't believe we've already been here 5 months! But it's been a great adventure. Matt's mom and oldest sister are visiting in a few weeks, and it'll be so fun to see them.

Sorry, no recipes today, just an update. Happy New Year to you. Hope it's the best one yet!