Memories and healthy recipes for your dinner table.

Month: May 2009

Balsamic Pork Chops with Tomatoes and Feta

I try to be frugal when it comes to shopping for groceries. I shop around for the best deal and lately I have come home with mostly store brand items. However, the few pre-packaged items I refuse to skimp on are cheeses and Balsamic vinegar. […]

Apple Tart Cake Recipe

I was finally able to salvage enough apples to make this apple tart cake. Fruit does not last very long around here. You know the saying, “If you have not used it in a year then toss it?” I can’t remember the last time I […]

The Many Uses of Flour

When the economy started it’s downward spiral the commodity most talked about was rice and flour. I started to write down all the many uses of flour. When used in baking it binds the ingredients together and supports the batter to prevent nuts and berries from sinking to the bottom of the pan. When used in cooking, it thickens sauces, creams and pie fillings.

The types of flour available seems practically endless: barley, buckwheat, chickpea, corn, oats, potato, rice, rye, soy, wheat, cake, self rising, bread and all-purpose. The choice of flour used will ultimately affect the finished product. Here is a short lesson on the science of flour. Flour contains protein. When the protein comes in contact with water and heat it produces gluten. Gluten is what gives elasticity and strength to baked goods. Different types of flour contain different amounts of protein. Therefore varying  from what is called for in a recipe will alter the outcome of the baked good.

Cake Flour: The most common variance I can think of is using regular all-purpose flour in the place of cake flour. Cake flour has a protein base of 6-8%.  It is used to produce a delicate tender crumb. Using all-purpose flour to make biscuits or cake will produce a dense texture rather than a light and airy one. Make your own by adding 2 tablespoons cornstarch to 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour. To substitute cake flour for all-purpose use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour for every cup of all-purpose flour.

Bread Flour: Bread flour has a protein base of 12-14% and is used to make yeast breads.

All-Purpose: All-Purpose Flour has a protein base of 10-12% and is used to make traditional sweets like cakes, cookies, quick breads, and pastries.

Pastry Flour: Pastry flour is similar to cake flour, with an 8-10% protein base. To make two cups of pastry flour, combine 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour with 2/3 cup cake flour.

Self-Rising Flour: Self-Rising Flour has a low protein base with salt and leavening already added. Combine 1 cup all-purpose, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Bleached Flour: Bleached flour has less protein than unbleached. Bleached is best for delicate baked goods such as yeast bread, pastries, pie crusts, cookies, quick breads, pancakes and popovers.

Whole Wheat Flour: Whole wheat is made from the whole kernel and is higher in dietary fiber than white flours. Whole wheat does not produce as much gluten, so it is often mixed with all-purpose or bread flour to give a better rise. The protein base depends on the type of wheat used. Hard red wheat has a higher protein level than hard white wheat. Hard white wheat when ground is much like all-purpose flour and can be used in much the same way. Red wheat berries can be cooked and added to soups, casseroles or lasagna, eaten like oatmeal or ground and made into bread.

Other Types of Flour: barley, buckwheat, chickpea, corn, oats, potato, rice, rye, soy and flaxseed are sometimes combined with all-purpose or wheat to give added flavor and nutrients. These flours can be used in pasta, yeast bread and some quick breads.

The Use of Flour:

Proper measuring of flour is extremely important. Too much flour will result in a tough and heavy baked good. When measuring flour always fluff the flour then spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level off with a knife. Do not pack it down or scoop the cup into the flour.

Sifting flour removes lumps and aerates it so that when combined with the liquid the batter mixes easily. If a recipe calls for 1 cup sifted flour this means you sift the flour before measuring. If the recipe calls for 1 cup flour, sifted this means you sift the flour after measuring.

Store flour in a cool dry place for up to six months. To prevent insects you can store flour in the refrigerator or freezer, bring to room temperature before using.

Grill Night Basic Seasoned Hamburgers

Food tastes so much better when cooked on a grill. From meats to vegetables and fruits the flavors just burst with excitement. Unfortunately, we do not have a grill, yet. But, we are still able to enjoy typical BBQ fare roasted in the oven or […]

Cheap and Tasty: Super Quick Minestrone

I really jumped on the eating fresh band wagon years ago when I spotted Michael Chiarello on the Food Network. His dishes looked amazing. He made making gnocchi and tomato puree look so simple. In some recipes that call for pancetta I will go ahead […]

Italian Sausage and Pasta in a Cream Tomato Sauce

Italian Sausage and pasta in a cream tomato sauce

Tonight’s menu called for spaghetti but I really did not feel like spaghetti. A variation of stroganoff with the use of sausage came to mind. I used mild Italian sausage but feel free to pump up the heat with medium or hot sausage. The great thing about cream sauce is there are several ways to go about making it. The first is using a rue of butter, flour and milk, the second is using cream and the third way is a can of cream of soup. Tonight I used a can of cream of mushroom soup plus a half can of milk.

8-10 ounces pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can Italian-style plum tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add sausage, stirring occasionally to break up large clumps. Cook until completely browned. Stir in onion, garlic and red pepper, cooking until tender. Stir in tomatoes, soup and milk. Simmer until mixture thickens, 5 minutes.

Stir cooked pasta into sauce and heat through. Sprinkle with parsley.

In the place of the cream of mushroom soup and milk use 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 cup milk and 1/2 tsp salt. Or use 1 1/2 cups cream and 1/2 tsp salt.
Add some chopped carrots or zucchini with the onions.
Add kale or spinach with the tomatoes.
Substitute Bulgar wheat, barley, potatoes or roasted vegetables in place of the pasta.

Mediterranean Roasted Vegetables with Bulgar Wheat

I love roasted vegetables. The are the most delicious slightly charred and seasoned lightly with kosher salt. You can make them in the oven as stated in this recipe or in a skillet over medium-high heat. I usually use Bulgar wheat for breakfast cereal sort […]

Pasta with Shrimp and Peas

This is basically a lighter version of shrimp scampi. The lemon zest adds a fresh twist without becoming too overbearing. I like to use cooked shrimp tossing it in with the pasta and parsley. I do not have to worry about over cooked rubbery shrimp. […]

Kids Choice: Cheesy Scrambled Eggs with Bacon and Toast

Cheesy Scrambled Eggs with Bacon and Toast

Tonight is movie night. The featured showing: “Finding Nemo”. I love Pixar movies because the scripts are genuinely well done and they always feature beautiful music in their films. Movie night is also kids choice. The kids decide what we eat for dinner. Mason, our five year old, decided to make cheesy scrambled eggs with bacon and toast.

Large Eggs, about 2 eggs per person
Shredded cheddar cheese
Bacon slices, 1 slice per person
Slices of bread, 1 slice per person
Butter and Jam, optional
Salsa, optional

Heat a skillet over medium heat. In a large bowl whisk the eggs until well blended, even in color and slightly frothy, about 2 minutes. Melt a little butter in the pan or spray with cooking spray. Pour egg mixture into heated skillet. Let the eggs begin to set. Use a spatula to gently lift and push the eggs from the edge of the pan to the center; tilting the pan to evenly distribute the runny parts. Continue pushing the eggs toward the center until the eggs are set. Turn off the heat. Carefully flip the eggs over to cook until no longer wet. Sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Meanwhile, cook bacon until the fat is no longer translucent and the bubbling grease turns foamy. Toast bread in a toaster until golden brown. Slather with butter and jam, if using.

Making Time for the Family: Dinnertime Fun

In the book His Needs Her Needs the concept of the love Bank is introduced. Throughout our lives we are constantly adding and subtracting from the love bank. The goal is to have a surplus of love credits so that the bank never falls empty. […]