Friday, February 15, 2008

Hummus: Quick and Healthy Snack

Hummus is one of those things that my kids just love...and it is quick, easy, healthy---and FRUGAL. All of the things I love in a snack!

There are two ways to start out...either with canned chick peas or cooked dried chick peas. Whenever I make dried beans for any reason, I usually make more than I need and freeze the rest so I have them on hand to use quickly. In this case, I didn't have any frozen ones but I did have some canned chick peas.

I drained and rinsed them, and poured them into the food processor. Then I added about 1t of sesame oil (found in the Asian Food section of the grocery store), 1 chopped onion, 3-4 cloves of garlic, some salt, pepper, and paprika, a dash of lemon juice (about 2-3T of it), and olive oil. I usually eyeball the lemon juice and olive oil. Blend until it is a paste. Add more olive oil and lemon juice if it seems too thick.

Normally these recipes call for tahini (sesame paste) but that is expensive and requires a trip to the health food store an hour away. I have found that a little bit of sesame oil works well too.

Garnish with paprika, and serve with tortilla chips, tortillas, bread, or as a dip for veggies.

Hungarian Goulash with Knoedel

Hungarian Goulash, like most food, has a special memory attached to it. When I was an exchange student to Austria, this was the first dish I ate as I was welcomed into the Schuetz family's home. Being someone who ate only peanut butter on wonderbread for most of my life, this looked scary to me. LOL But it was so good, I took the recipe home with me, and continue to use it.

My husband especially loves this, and wishes I made it more often. I don't only because it takes long to prepare (though sometimes I prepare and freeze the Knoedel ahead of time). We do have the Goulash by itself or served with rice or potatoes alone.

I loosely base my recipe on the ones found in "Das Grosse Sacher Kochbuch" by Franz Maier-Bruck, which is a good cook book if you read German.

First the Knoedel (Potato Dumplings).

Start off with
2 lbs of cooked and peeled potatoes (about 5-8 medium potatoes)
4 oz. by weight (about 1/2 cup) of grits
2 egg yolks
1 stick of butter (softened)
1 pinch of salt

Blend this together in a food processor, or using a potato masher. Slowly add 1 1/4 c. (9 oz by weight) of flour, to form a dough.

Knead on a floured board, then slowly form 2" balls out of the dough in your hands. Roll them in flour, set them on a plate, and chill for about 1 hour (or freeze for up to 2 months).

When I make these ahead and freeze, I usually lay them on a cookie sheet on waxed paper, then freeze them, and then put them into freezer baggies after they are well frozen, for easier use.

To cook, drop them into the simmering goulash or into boiling water for about 20 minutes. They will become larger, and float when they are done.

The Goulash:

Slice or chop 1 lb of onions, and lightly brown in 1 T. of oil with 1t. of caraway seeds. Add 2-3 cloves of garlic, and 2 lbs of stewing beef. Brown the beef.

Add 1 can of tomato paste, 1/8-1/4 cup of paprika, 3T. of onion soup mix (optional), and 1 lb of cubed and peeled potatoes. Add enough water to cover the ingredients by 1-2 inches (or more if desired--we usually add more liquid, especially when making it with Knoedel). Cover with a lid and simmer until the meat and potatoes are tender. You may use less potatoes if you are adding the Knoedel later.

After everything has cooked, add the Knoedel carefully, and let them simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

To garnish it, you may add parsley and/or scallions.

blessings ,

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Bread Questions

Recently, Amy emailed me a question regarding my bread book. Unfortuately, Amy, I am hoping you are reading this as your spam blocker at MSN is blocking my email reply to you! Apparently it has recognized my email address as spam for some reason, and so no one who I email at MSN or Hotmail can get email from me. It's a bother.

Amy's question was:
I've tried your white bread, 100% whole wheat bread, and the mixture bread (white/wheat.) The white turned out the worst, just flat. I'm having trouble in two areas: 1) lack of rising, and 2) low flavor.

My response:
Hi Amy,
The lack of rising is most likely because of one of three things: poor quality yeast (too old or otherwise not active), not enough kneading, or not enough gluten in the flour. Most likely with a new baker it is not enough kneading. It may help to set a timer when kneading the bread to make sure you are kneading long enough, and start the timer once you have put enough flour into the dough so that it is no longer sticky.

For the flavor, did you add the salt to the bread? The salt tends to make a world of difference in the flavor and texture, I have found. Also, what sort of oil did you use? The oil may make a difference in the flavor of the bread. I usually use either butter or olive oil. Usually olive oil, as I like the flavor. Something with less flavor may affect the flavor of the bread.

Also, when the bread rises well it also slices better, and thus works better for sandwiches. The kind of knife you use for slicing bread also makes a big difference, as well as letting it cool completely before it is sliced.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Higher Ground, Revisited

Again, I am am always amused by my cats' abilities to find strange places to perch, sleep, and so forth. Last time it was sitting on a pedastal to the staircase, and this time we find Cappachino having stuffed himself into a small bread basket, set atop the highest shelf of my baker's rack in the dining room. Ah, to be a cat.