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Nothing smells like home-baked bread on a cold winter afternoon–or any time, now that I think about it!  Thank goodness making bread at home is easy and even quick, if you just leave the dough on its own as it rises (and why wouldn’t you?).  Today we’re going to make a remarkably soft but also hearty, healthy whole-wheat and oatmeal bread that makes great breakfast toast, super sandwiches, and even tasty croutons.  You can add walnuts or seeds for a bread fit for the Woodstock generation, or try using herbs or garlic to turn it into rustic supper rolls, as I did with a little of the dough the last time I made this bread.  You can even make fresh, hot homemade glazed doughnuts for breakfast and still have enough dough left for a good-sized loaf of the bread in the afternoon.

Bread is really easy , as long as you remember three keys for making good yeast bread.  The first key to baking any yeast bread is to remember that yeast is a living organism.  It’s going to be happiest (and help your bread rise best) if you start with fresh (live) yeast and wake it up in a nice warm (not hot) bath.  The second thing you need to know is that yeast likes to eat, but it doesn’t like to binge; keep your yeast feed slow.  The third key is remembering that wheat gluten is your friend when it comes to yeast bread.  Wheat gluten is the substance that helps build structure to work with all the gas produced by your happy yeast.  Put together happy yeast and wheat gluten, and you’ll have great homemade yeast bread.

Ingredients

Remember to use organic when you can!

  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water (comfortable for your skin)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned (not quick cooking) rolled oats (a.k.a. oatmeal before steel-cut Irish oats and Scottish oats invaded the US)
  • 1 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds (optional:  if you don’t have flax seeds, try using another tablespoon of butter)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • 4 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/4 cup whole-grain oat flour (or just add another 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour if you don’t have oat; I keep both in my pantry, and the oat flour helps provide softness)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup wheat gluten (Gluten has gotten a really bad rap in recent years, but it’s a must if you want to make whole-grain bread and still get the flexibility that contributes to sustaining the rise.  Gluten, by the way, also raises the protein content of the bread, so if you’re not sensitive to it, use it!)
  • 1/2 cup more warm water (same as before–like a nice hot bath but not so warm that it hurts you or the yeast)

Begin by dissolving the yeast and sugar in the 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl (preferably 4-quart, although a 2.5 quart will work in a pinch).  You’re proofing the yeast.  If it’s good, in a few minutes you should have woken up your yeast, and they should have started making a foamy mess in your bowl.  That’s what we want to see!

Meanwhile, pour the 1 1/4 cup boiling water over the oatmeal.  I use a 2-cup heat-safe pyrex measuring cup for the oatmeal, and then I can just add everything else except the flour.

Next scald the milk by bringing it to the edge of a boil, until tiny bubbles appear around the edges of the pot.  Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the butter, salt, and honey until they dissolve.  Add them to the oatmeal.

As soon as the oatmeal mixture reaches that good bath-water temperature, add the oatmeal to the yeast mixture in your really big bowl, add the flax seed, and start working in your flour, baking powder, and wheat gluten, alternating so that they all three get thoroughly mixed.  Knead the flour in until you think you can’t add more, then do the easy thing and add the last 1/2 cup warm water–yep, bathwater temperature again.  Knead a few minutes more, until all of the flour is incorporated.  Then cover the bowl and set it in a warm place to start rising.  Thanks to the extra water, it will keep developing the gluten on its own, without too much kneading from you.

For the next twenty-four hours or so, let the dough rise.  When you notice that it’s doubles, form your hand into a fist and slam it into the middle of the dough.  Punch it down.  Give it a few good kneads.  Re-cover it and walk away again.

When you’re ready to bake, you’ll need at least two hours with the dough.  Start by punching down and kneading the dough one last time.  Then put it in a warm (not hot), buttered bread loaf pan, 9×5.  (You can use an 8×4 if you’ve taken a bit out for other purposes–see below.)  Let it rise for an hour in a warm (not hot) place for an hour.  Start pre-heating your oven to 375 degrees F.  The dough is ready for the oven when an indentation you make with your finger still bounces back but just barely.  Put the dough in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.  The bread is done when you knock on the bottom and it sounds hollow.  Cool in the pan a few minutes and then cool on a rack.

The Bonus:  Rolls or Doughnuts!

Now, I happen to know that this dough makes an ample loaf, so ample in fact that you can pull out a bit of dough for something else and have enough left.  Let’s say that you start this bread Sunday afternoon.  How about if you take out dough about the size of two or three chicken eggs that very night?  Turn that into three dinner rolls, let rise for about an hour in a warm spot, and then bake them for dinner, about 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Or you can do what we did this morning, having started the dough yesterday.  Make doughnuts! Take out a scant 1/2 cup dough.  Add 1/2 a chicken egg (or one bantam egg), beaten with a sprinkle of sugar (no more than 1/2 teaspoon) and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Knead it together until the egg is well incorporated.  You’ll have a very soft dough.  Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of flour on a bread board and then pull out three or four balls of dough.  First form rounds, and either cut out the middle or use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke through a hole and enlarge it.  Use flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.  Let the doughnuts rise for a half hour.  Heat oil of two or three inches to 350 to 375 degrees F in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot.  Drop doughnuts in one at a time and fry until almost done on one side, and then flip to the other side.  Remove, drain, and drizzle with glaze.  Glaze:  three tablespoons of powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and enough milk, by the drop, to make your glaze.  Take it slow with the milk and stir with every addition; you can easily go from not enough to too much.

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When doctors and nutritionists point to the healthiness of the “Mediterranean diet,” too many people think, “Oh, I can eat lasagna loaded with cheese and meat and be healthy.”  I do believe that there are times for lasagna, but I know that even made with whole grains and organic products or even spinach that it’s still not health food.  Still, people from the Mediterranean do know how to eat to live.  To celebrate the start of fall, we had a great Italian soup made with fresh garden ingredients:  minestrone.  I served it with crostini with pesto and garnished it with some petite Italian turkey meatballs, but you could leave those out and go entirely vegetarian instead.

Minestrone is health in a bowl if you make it properly.  I started by cooking some navy beans with garlic and a parmesan rind until the beans were al dente.

trombetta squash

  • 1-2 cups cannellini or navy beans, cooked
  • 1/2-1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2-4 cups fresh, seeded tomatoes (retain and use juice) or diced canned tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth

Cannellini beans are more traditional, but the navy beans substitute just fine.  You can easily find canned cannellini beans too.  My next step was to sauté a small diced onion while I diced a carrot and minced a stalk of celery.  Then I sautéed the carrot and celery alongside the onion.  As the trio begin to cook, add a clove of minced garlic.  Next add 2-4 cups fresh or  quality canned, chopped tomatoes, seeded but with juice retained and added to the soup.  If you have any good zucchini, as we did, cut it into chunks and toss it in.  Add back in the beans with any remaining cooking liquid.  Add up to 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth.  Simmer over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 20-30 minutes.

I served petite turkey meatballs on top of the minestrone.

  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs (oregano, rosemary, basil)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • pinch salt
  • 1/3 pound ground turkey (or lamb, beef, or chicken)
  • 2-4 tablespoons whole-grain bread crumbs
  • splash of broth sufficient for forming meatballs

I minced 1/4 cup onion and sautéed it in olive oil until the onion took on a little color.  I added a clove of minced garlic just long enough for the garlic to get the harsh flavor out.  Then I mixed the onion and garlic with about 2 teaspoons of dried Italian herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil), about a teaspoon of crushed fennel seed, a pinch each of crushed red pepper and salt, and 1/3 pound ground turkey.  Add 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup whole-grain bread crumbs.  Mix and add a splash of minestrone broth or chicken broth.  Using a teaspoon or small cookie scoop, form petite meatballs and cook in olive oil over medium heat, turning to brown all sides.

Minestrone

Serve minestrone in a broad bowl, placing meatballs on top, and garnish with fresh grated parmesan cheese and chiffonaded fresh basil.  Add whole-grain crostini to work with the beans to increase the protein.

Fall makes me crave warm, healthy soups.  Do you crave soup as temperatures drop?  What’s your family’s favorite fall soup?

Copyright 2010 Ozark Homesteader.

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Giveaway Winner!

Readers, it’s official.  We have a winner!  Earlier today I compiled your entries in the first-ever Ozark Homesteader blog giveaway for a 2-quart camping Dutch oven and lid lifter.  I placed the entries in my favorite fall decor, a pumpkin dish

and Mr. Homesteader shuffled the entries and then drew one out.  I was hoping to get one of the cats to do the drawing, but neither was available for the job.

And the winner is Anthony Thomas.  Anthony, you may recall, posted a recipe for Moroccan chicken with his entry.  Anthony, please email me at Ozarkhomesteader   AT yahoo  DOT com with your address so that I can mail you your prize.

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Dear readers, I’m always so surprised that anyone visits my little blog, and I want to thank you with my first giveaway.  I’ve known from day one that I want to share some of my favorite things with you, whether that’s recipes or products.  This spring I was privileged enough to win two beautiful pottery bowls from Polly of Polly’s Path.  It’s time for me to pay it forward.

Like this one only new!

My first giveaway is a 2-quart cast-iron camping Dutch oven from Lodge.  (Yes, I picked it up when I visited the outlet this summer.)  You don’t have to camp to use a Dutch oven like this one.  (Yours will be new!)  You can still use it in your oven, in your backyard, or even on the stove top, depending on the type of burners you have.  If you’re not sure how to use a Dutch oven with coals, check out all of these great ideas from a recent Dutch oven cook-off. (You can even roast a whole chicken in a larger Dutch oven outside.)  The Dutch oven I’m giving away is great for a family meal.  It’s ideal for two chicken thighs and two chicken drumsticks with a smattering of veggies.  It’ll roast a whole chicken breast, as long as its not too big.  The Dutch oven works as a casserole for side dishes and desserts.  It’s perfect for your next camping trip or everyday cooking outside or inside.  And if you take care of it, you can pass it on for generations to come.

You’ll also get a lid lifter–as shown here–that is made by Lodge to work with its Dutch ovens.  Yes, yours will be new too.

How do you win these gifts? Tell me here in the comments section that you’re interested, and let me and other readers know how you’d like to use the Dutch oven–inside, outside, on your annual canoe trip, as a gift, as a door stop. You’ll automatically get an entry that way.  You can get a second entry by blogging about this giveaway on your own blog.  Be sure to post a second time here with a link to your blog entry.  That way, all of the readers at Ozark Homesteader will get to learn about your blog too, and I can use the posts in the drawing.  Tweets get you credit too, as long as the tweets show up on WordPress’s tweet counter and you post here.  :-)

Here’s the fine print:  Entries close at midnight central time on Sunday, September 26, 2010; late entries will not be counted.  Entries are limited to US and Canadian addresses.  Entries will be selected at random.  I’ll post the winner by Sunday, October 3, 2010, if not sooner.  And, no, there’s no catch.

Chances to enter the giveaway are now closed.  You can read about the winner here.

If you missed this one, though, check back as the holiday season approaches.  The Homestead’s next giveaway may help you decorate for the holidays and will help you care for your hearth through the winter.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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This summer while visiting my dad, I had a chance to go to the heart of cast iron cookware in the United States:  the Lodge Outlet in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee.  (No, I do not have a relationship of any kind with Lodge; I just like their American-made, last-several-lifetimes products.) The Lodge Outlet is located on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, near Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama.  It’s right where Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia come together.  Its location no doubt was influenced by its proximity to the Tennessee River and the iron-producing region of the South that stretches from Chattanooga to Birmingham.  Lodge has been manufacturing here for more than a century, and Lodge’s products will last for centuries if you take care of them, making them some of the most eco-friendly housewares available.

The outlet has cast iron galore!

And the outlet has accessories, like walnut chargers.

And they carry a lot of enameled cast iron now too, although I think it’s made in China instead of in the US like everything else in the outlet.  I love the colors, but I try to avoid Chinese products.

Except I may not be able to resist this casserole dish.  Resisting, resisting . . . .

The outlet room is less pretty (thus no photo), but it’s my absolute favorite, because everything is at a really good price.  It’s tempting, and you know you’re getting a good deal.  And then your cart will start to look like this:

And you may start to worry about whether you’re buying too much, but then you see this sign:

Great!  I’ll keep shopping.  And then you get to the check-out counter and discover if you spend six more dollars, you’ll get twenty dollars worth of merchandise for free.  And you do.  And then your cart looks like this:

I’m not a “shopper” by nature, but I have a really hard time restraining myself at the Lodge Outlet.

Some of the things I bought are for gifts, like these 2-and 3-quart Dutch ovens, which will be wedding gifts.  They were half price but aren’t seconds; Lodge is just changing the design slightly.  I love the idea of giving an enduring gift like a Dutch oven to a couple who likes to cook and eat; they can pass it down to their children and their children’s grandchildren.

I bought some things to keep too–shhhhhhhh.  Don’t tell Mr. Homesteader.  I’ve already used them around him, but I don’t think he’s recognized that they’re new.  Check out this great Dutch oven or skillet lid that doubles as a skillet itself but will also fit in the toaster oven, so I can make my deep-dish whole-grain pizza in the summer without heating up the whole house. Of course, I also really like small cast iron for when you’re not cooking for a whole crew.  Check out my papa bear lid/skillet with my new baby skillet and lid.I have used this little fry pan so many times since I brought it home.

It’s not only cute; it works well!

I can have a perfect over-easy fried egg on buttered toast in about 4 minutes, and I can come up with 4 minutes on all but my busiest work mornings!

The lid that fits the little skillet also fits this nifty little pot with legs.  I picked up two of them as my freebees, but I wish now I’d gotten more.  They’ll be perfect for making individual servings of the chili-cheese-cornbread bake this fall and winter.

Imagine lifting the lids on little bread puddings in these tiny cauldrons!

I also got two more of these wonderful cast-iron plates that work for fajitas, for starting fish on the stove top and then finishing in the oven, and for smaller versions of my thinner-crust whole-grain pizza.  I think these “plates” are indispensable, especially with the walnut charger, which makes it so easy to go from oven or stovetop to table.

And ultimately I could not entirely resist the enamelware.  I bought this trivet.  My kitchen is white with red accents, so this trivet is perfect!

And I got a couple of more things that were neither wedding gifts nor for me.  They’re a gift for one of you, my dear readers.  And they weren’t on sale or from the seconds area, but that’s okay, because months ago I said that a camping Dutch oven would be my first giveaway.  Watch for me to post it tonight or tomorrow morning!  I didn’t want readers to miss it in this long post.

Do you have a favorite outlet for an American-made product that warms the cockles of your heart?  Have you ever been to the Lodge Outlet?

If you want to know more about using Dutch ovens, check out this recent cook-off, this beginner’s recipe, and this roasted chicken recipe.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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Last weekend I had the opportunity join in a friendly Dutch oven cook off for a state outdoor club.  I won the same competition last year, with roasted rosemary chicken (drummies, thighs, breast pieces) and vegetables.  When I say friendly competition, I mean friendly.  I even loaned a few competitors equipment that they needed.

Folks fired up coals.

Well, actually  it wasn’t so much “folks” as men, except a girlfriend who was assisting one competitor, plus me and lovely Jessica, shown hard at work here.  Somehow playing with fire does seem to be men’s game more than women’s, although I’ll never understand why.

Some folks had fancy fire pans.

Others, like Paul, didn’t even use charcoal.

I used this funky rectangular aluminum Dutch oven that belongs to my husband.

I should have paid more attention to presentation, like this competitor, TC, did.

My husband apparently garnished his green chili chicken enchiladas with my tomatoes.  The enchiladas look pretty plain here.

I made lasagna.

Everyone in the cooking area who tasted it proclaimed it the best, giving me hope for a win, although one friendly guy said a beef stew might be my strongest competition.

TC won in the breakfast category with this quiche.  I didn’t try it, since it had red meat.

These apple dumplings won in the dessert category.

Competition in entrees was strong this year, with no flubs and a lot of good food, as I understand it.  The judging was apparently very, very close, with only a few points dividing most of the competitors.  The entree winner was—–drumroll please!———Mr. Homesteader.  Ugh.  He’s kind of a sore winner, a bit obnoxious about it.  It’s okay; at least we’re keeping the title in the family!

I heard afterwards from two judges what kept me from winning:  garnish (ah, if only I’d clipped a few fresh sprigs of basil from the garden!) and the fact that, by the time they judged mine (which was after a dozen other entries), the lasagna was not piping hot.  Next year, I’ll serve straight out of the pan, like I did last year.  Anyway, you too can make whole-grain lasagna while you’re camping!  And, yes, that’s a little slice of flatbread with tomato, cheese, and fresh basil, also from a Dutch oven.

Have you ever competed in a cook-off of any kind?  What’s the dish of which you’ve been most proud, either in competition or at a potluck or big family gathering?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved, including for photographs.

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Recently I posted a savory tomato tart recipe, with the possibility of leftover pastry dough if you made an 8-inch tart.  I promised that I’d give you another use for that pastry dough, and here it is:  whole-grain apple turnovers.

I must admit that I grew up with whole pies, not turnovers nor my husband’s favorite from his Arkansas grandmother, fried pies made with her own dried fruit.  You could turn these turnovers into fried pies, but why?  They made Mr. Homesteader perfectly happy in the baked form and reminded both of us of fall when we were kids.

recipe for 4-5 turnovers

Start with 1 or 2 fresh apples.  I like to minimize waste, so I cut my apples into quarters and then eighths and then core them.  You may peel the apples if you want.  Now cut each slice in half to make chunks.  In a small, non-reactive pot, cook the apple chunks with a little water, cider, or even butterscotch schnapps and a teaspoon or more of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. If you’re feeling decadent, you can add a little cream.  Cook the apples until they release some of their liquid and it cooks off.

Now let’s assemble the turnovers.  For this recipe you’ll need about a handful of chilled pastry dough, leftover from the tomato tart or another small pie recipe. (Picture a disk about four inches in diameter and an inch or a little less tall.) Because we’re making a sweet recipe, sprinkle a bread board or obsessively clean, dry countertop with sugar instead of flour if you want.  Roll out your dough to about 1/4-inch thickness.  Cut into rounds of about 4-5 inches each.  Re-roll the dough to get your last round out of the scraps if need be.

Now fill each dough round by putting a little mound of filling slightly off center.  Fold the round over the apple mound and press the edges together.  Use a fork to crimp the edges closed.  Poke holes in the top of the turnovers with a fork or small knife.  Place the turnovers on a baking sheet and sprinkle with extra sugar if you want.  Now bake them in a 375-400 degree F oven (toaster ovens work great for these) for about 15-20 minutes, until the filling reveals itself a little and the turnovers are golden brown.

Serve warm with a dollop of good vanilla ice cream or some apple butter.  Eat any leftover filling with your cereal tomorrow morning. Grin.

Mmmm.  Look at how pretty the sugar is, like a sprinkling of fall frost!

Here’s the dough recipe in its entirety, in case you want to make a big pile of turnovers.  Just remember to use about 1-2 apples for every 4 turnovers or so.

Crust Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into bits
  • optional but really tasty!:  handful or two of toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
  • flour for rolling

Put the flour mixed with with salt and leavening and cold, cut butter in a medium-sized bowl.  Cut the butter into the flour, using a pastry cutter or fork.  Once you’ve cut in the butter, creating a mealy mixture, mix in the toasted pine nuts, breaking them with the pastry cutter.  Now stir in the yogurt, just until you’ve formed the dough. Do not overwork pastry dough! Wrap the dough and chill for a few minutes.  Roll on a well-floured or sugared bread board and cut into desired shape.

Do you have a favorite recipe that does double duty?  Did you grow up with baked turnovers or fried pies–or something different all together?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.


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