Monday, July 12, 2010

Time to change...

Please join me, won't you?

I hope to see you kicking it at my spiffy new digs.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

15 Minute Chili

Yesterday I had to take Grand Master H to the doctor. H is four. He doesn't want to do anything he doesn't want to do. Ever. 

He doesn't like to go to the doctor unless he is tagging along to watch his sister get shots. He might be a sadist.

He has a nasty rash on his left leg that is spreading and is now on the move to colonize his right leg.

H trying to spot the doctor before the doctor spots him!

He likes the toys in the waiting room. He likes the lollipops.

Other than those two things, he has no use for the doctor.

In fact, as we waited, he announced in his stage non-whisper that, "I hate Dr. C!" Not the way to make yourself popular, or avoid painful procedures, my little friend!

In hindsight, I am not overly fond of the Dr. C we saw yesterday. He was kind of gently trying to tell me that Baby C's weight might be a little high for her height. There was kind of a little unspoken, "you don't want her to end up like you, do you?" My gut reaction was to tell him to suck it. She is 2, for Christ's sake. I will be damned if I am going to "start watching her in-between meal snacks."

I may be in the market for a new pediatrician. I am not sure if it was just my PMS over-reacting, or if his concerns are legit. I am leaning toward him over-reacting.

The negotiations were complicated and involved bribery. Don't judge, it was a desperate move, I admit it. I have to use what I can here, people. I have stubborn-ass children. Let me just say, for the record, having smart AND stubborn children sucks.

In other news, my children won't wear clothes most days. Most days it looks like a trailer park down the dirt road near Crazytown around here. I have two kids running around, semi-nude, clad only in diapers, yelling their heads off. I can only imagine what the neighbors think.

Earlier this week, Grand Master H came running down from his room, shouting that he needed a napkin, "FAST!"

When I asked what the emergency was he stated the following: "There is poop all over the floor. Mommy, you can get the big one and I will get all the little ones!"

I will let you use your powers of imagination to picture what I found I when arrived in his room. This is supposed to be a food blog, after all!

Taking a little break after sprinting around the kitchen island for about 10 minutes.

A few days later, I stupidly put Baby C down for a nap wearing only a diaper. I tried to get her dressed, but she threw a hissy fit and ran away. She does that a lot.

When I went up to get her a few hours later, she announced that there was, "Poop in my bed." Naturally, I freaked. I saw several loads of disgusting laundry in my near future. Turns out it was a false alarm, she had peed all over her beloved Silkie and several stuffed animals, but no poop. A million thanks to ye gods of all things intestinal!

So, enough already about the bathroom, or non-bathroom habits of my wayward children.

Back to the chili recipe, woman!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. Who the the hell eats chili when the temperature is hovering in the 80s? Well, Mr. Smith requested this. When Mr. Smith actually goes to the trouble to request something by emailing me a link, I pay attention. I trot right out to the store and I make that recipe, dammit! I am that kind of wife.

It should be said that I am not a fan of chili. The idea of red meat in soup just gives me the willies. The turkey works very nicely for us instead of beef, but if you prefer beef, go for it.

The great thing about this recipe is I had most of the ingredients, so it was a no-brainer. I need more of those.

Also, it is quick and that is always appealing. We have a kind of wacky non-schedule schedule around here. Being married to Mr. Smith is very similar to being married to a doctor. I never know when he will be home, when he had lunch, etc. I just cook when I feel like it and if somebody eats it, I am happy. If they don't eat it, we have great leftovers.

This recipe does not call for salt or hot sauce, but it needs a little of both. You use your discretion here. Tastes are so individual as far as these two things are concerned, I can't give you measurements.


1 pound ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 16 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 16 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 28 oz. can chopped stewed tomatoes
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 cup salsa

Salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce to taste

In a large pot, brown turkey with chopped onion.

Add beans, tomatoes, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and salsa to turkey mixture. Cook until hot.

Serve with cornbread, tortilla chips, cooked pasta, cooked rice or on top of a baked potato. Sprinkle with cheese or top with sour cream.

Adapted from

Makes 4 servings.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

First Born

Being the first born carries a special weight to it. Of course, I may believe this because I am an oldest child. I am, in fact, the oldest child of two oldest children.

I am the "test run" of two "test runs." We are all the children of first-time parents, people who really did not know, in any material sense, what they were getting into. Some of us fared better than others.

I married an oldest child.

I am a glutton for punishment.

We have five oldest children (including our first born) living under one roof. As it turns out, that is exactly four oldest children too many.

We all want to be in charge. We all believe, on some level, that we are in charge, all the time. Picture Clash of the Titans...on Steroids.

As you can imagine, this causes no end of conflict on certain occasions...most occasions.

Something is not right. Something has broken and I don't know how to fix it.

Grand Master H has the metabolism of a coked-up hummingbird . The kid simply can't get enough calories in any given day. Some days he eats 6 eggs. Yup, my four year old can put away half a dozen eggs. In one day. He is a ball of energy. He hops up and down most of the day. He is enthusiastic and sweet, but he can fall apart when not tended to every two hours, without exception.

Since last Thanksgiving, I have set alarms (every two hours) to make sure that he eats regularly and eats enough. This level of vigilance is really getting to me.

I think that I have failed him on such an epic scale and I have no idea how to remedy this situation.

The consequences of not feeding him every two hours are dire. He wails like a wounded animal. He cries uncontrollably. He screams. He rages. He spits. He hits. He kicks. He repeats a single phrase over and over and over again until the syllables become blurred and soaked with tears, mucus and frustrated rage.

He tells me he hates me. He tells me I am stupid. He tells me to shut up and get out of the house or the car. He tells me to go live in the green area.

We have had him tested for diabetes, hypoglycemia, etc.

The day we had to take him for his blood tests is tattooed on my memory.

I was not able to get him dressed because he kept ripping his clothes off. I waited in the car with him while Mr. Smith went in and checked us in. As soon as I let him out of his car seat, he skittered to the far side of the back seat and crouched on the floor.

He curled up there, crying and wailing, begging me not to take him into the lab to have tests. "I don't want to have the test" he yelled over and over again in a chant. Until the crisis somehow passed, that would be his personal mantra.

I tried to go to the other door to get him, he scampered to the opposite side. And so it went for several more attempts on my part to retrieve my terrified son. He begged me to just take him home. And I wanted to do just that, more than anything.

Finally, I climbed in the back seat and dragged him, in my arms, out of the car. He hit me and kicked me. He slapped my face and screamed into my mouth as I tried to calm him. He had to have felt he was fighting for his life, the poor thing.

It was taking everything I had to hang on to him and keep him from falling to the pavement. I gave up on the idea of shoes. I was carrying my wailing child into the office barefoot, clad only in his pajamas.

I can't even imagine what the other people in the waiting area thought of us, thought of our child, thought of our stellar parenting skills.

I don't know how many other people were there, I was so focused on keeping it together. I felt so overwhelmed, so helpless and so scared. I knew I had to do this. I knew we had to find out if there was something wrong with him, but the process required to find that out was so daunting.

The phlebotomist was amazing and got the necessary blood drawn without incident. I looked at his little face and he just sat there, stoic and weeping.

He got through it. We got through it.

We got him doughnuts. We bought him toys. But he still gets nervous when we drive near the location of the lab.

I felt wrung out and exhausted. I wanted to go home and crawl under the blankets and stay in bed for the rest of the day, for the rest week. But I could not do that, I can never do that, no matter how much I want to.

I am the oldest child. I have to take care of everyone. I have to take care of everything. I am the one who is responsible for holding everything and everyone together.

Yesterday, it happened again. The screaming, crying, raging went on for about half an hour. Sometimes it goes on longer...up to an hour.

So, every two hours, the boy's food alarm goes off on my phone. I stop what I am doing and begin negotiations with H before he falls apart. The clock is always ticking and I can hear it.

I am getting really tired of it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Bunch of Stuff...

Around here we have been experiencing some form of flu/cold. It so completely and thoroughly sucks to be sick for this long. I have dubbed it the Green Goo. Take it from me, you don't want it and you don't want to know why I call it that horrible name. It is a tenacious cold/flu strain that appears to never go away. Just when you think you are better, to quote Al Pacino, it "pulls you back in."

We are now entering week two. Tempers are short. People are weepy. Noses are chapped and sore. Kleenex is getting scarce. The wheels have most definitely come off the proverbial bus. Things just don't work well when Mommy is sick.

I have a few random things to share.

1. The measure of maternal devotion is whether or not your child has ever thrown up and or pooped into your hands and how you have reacted. There is a gross out factor to motherhood that no one warns you about. The long and short of it: you will come into contact with more bodily fluids, not your own, than an ER nurse. That is just the truth. Sorry no rainbows and lollipops, here. It ain't pretty, but by the time they actually puke or poo into your hands, you are so numb to it (at least I was) that it barely registers on your radar.

2. On Valentine's Day, Mr. Smith and I went out for a sweetheart breakfast. Unfortunately, the place was mobbed, I was really really hungry and we were seated at a tiny table so close to other diners, I could feel their hot breath and see their pores. The sweetheart breakfast disintegrated into an argument between Mr. Smith and myself that played out via iPhone text messaging so that our insanely close neighbors would not be able to hear our heated discussion about Mr. Smith emphatic insistence that we leave IMMEDIATELY! Everything was fine after we adjourned to a less crowded locale and got a booth for a family of 25. Talk about romance. We know how to capture the spirit of Valentine's Day.

3. I used to date a guy that told me, very seriously, to "stop making fun of me or you are going to give me a complexion." Can you fill in what happened next? He was the same guy that got the terms castration and circumcision mixed up...frequently. He has two sons now. True story.

4. I have never seen Ghostbusters, Jurassic Park, most of the Star Wars saga, or any of the Matrix movies. Sorry big movie studio, big budget folks who make event films. I am just not your girl. Your event movies make me sleepy. Also, this is for you Keanu: do us all a favor and turn in your SAG card. Sorry dude, but seriously, it is awkward and uncomfortable to watch you "act."

5. When you are sick and you are under five, it makes you feel better to play Toy Story and Toy Story 2 on an endless loop for over a week. If you are sick and over five, however, it will make you feel like you are going to fly apart into a million pieces.

6. I have been baking up a yeasty storm over here using this book. It is just lovely to have the aroma of baking bread, that you made with your own hot little hands, wafting through the house. It is simple, elegant, and so tasty. There are dozens of recipes in it, not just for bread, that will strike your fancy. This one is perfect for anyone with a phobia of yeast recipes (Miss Amy, I am looking right at you!).

I mean, seriously people, how gorgeous is this? And this was my first loaf.

and the second loaf.

And here is what the wheat version looks like...

The book was worth every penny. We have had fresh bread each day this week and it is absolute bliss.

Here are some links for recipes I have made in the last few months.

Pioneer Woman's Monkey Bread. This one has no nutritional value whatsoever. I would advise you to make this if and only if you get the Green Goo. Otherwise, you will too be clear-headed to justify eating this one. I am ashamed to confess that I have made this twice. Forgive me.

Murphy's Hot Hamburger. This is not something for the Weight Watcher crowd, but it sure is yummy. I skip making my own fries (since I burnt them beyond all recognition the first time I made this) and use Trader Joe's Potato Wedges. It also makes this recipe so much quicker to whip up and serve.

Zesty Pasta Salad. This one is my last ditch attempt at some kind of redemption. This is actually pretty healthy and REALLY tasty. The perfect side dish for Memorial Day picnics.

Here's hoping none of you get this Green Goo! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ok, so I had a little tantrum.

I deleted a post that was up earlier today.

I had my bitch on for little while there and deleted what I wrote. See, I am a petulant child. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where my devil babies get it! Pray for poor Mr. Smith.

I have been holding on to a couple of funny stories. I will figure out a way to tell these and incorporate some recipes.

In the meantime, here are some photos from Mother's Day.

I am not, in general, a big fan of these days (Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day). I guess the notion of waiting for one particular day to appreciate the people you should appreciate every single day bugs me.

On Sunday, I stood on a secluded beach at low tide and watched my little family. I watched my children dart in and out of the water like little birds. I watched as they got more and more soaked and more and more naked. I watched Mr. Smith carry our son out into the surf. I watched as our brave little boy begged his father not to go back to shore, but keep going further into the surf.

That kind of joy, that kind of abandon, that kind of freedom to scream and laugh and play, it made my heart swell and tears sting my eyes.

This is my life now. And I could not be more thankful...every single day.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Lina Boo,

Until the night before the sonogram, your father had me convinced that we were going to have another boy. That night, I dreamed about you throughout the night. Every dream had a song with your name in it for a soundtrack. After that, I just knew. I knew you were the little girl I had dreamed about before the technician ever touched the wand to my belly. I was completely calm because I knew, in my heart, what the sonogram would reveal. There was no more doubt left for me.

"Do you want to know the gender?", she asked right away.

"Absolutely!", we said.

"Yup, definitely a little girl."

That was pretty much the last day you ever cooperated with us.

I have never known anyone like you. You are the most stubborn, headstrong, willful person I have ever met. Okay, other than myself.

I have worried and fretted over you since the moment the pregnancy test was positive. The little message in a bottle you sent to let us know you were in there could not have come at a worse time. We were not ready for you, but apparently, you were ready for us. You are not one to wait. Ever. For anything.

I worried that you were in trouble in there. I worried that you were never going to know what a happy family could be like. We were at an all time low point and you were my ray of hope. You and your brother were the thing that kept me going at that dark time in our lives. I had to be brave for both of you, no matter how scared I was.

You are so little and that is too much responsibility for you to carry.

You are my last baby and some days you make me glad we made that decision. You are a handful.

And then there are the days when you are enchanting. Early in the morning when you have me all to yourself and you are funny and sweet, those are the times that make me regret the decision to not have any more children.

You have a grandmother you have never met. Luckily, there are other women eager to fill her empty shoes, and much more ably, I might add. I hope that you cherish these women the way that I have cherished them. They have so much to teach both of us.

You are a dedicated, fierce contrarian. "No, I don't want it!" is a familiar refrain from you. Even if it is something you do want. Even if it is something you just asked us to get for you. I have never been forced to argue with someone so young, so frequently.

You have the most beautiful khaki/brownish/goldish/bluish eyes that sparkle when you get that naughty little look on your face, which is frequently.

I could watch you all day while you figure everything out. You are scary smart and bossy in the extreme. I figure you will be running a small country before you are eighteen. I am already penning the letter of apology to your future boyfriends. I can only imagine what they will face when dealing with you.

Even though you have a tough candy coating, you are filled with a soft nougat center. You love just as fiercely as you argue.

You are one of the best snugglers I have ever met. I could watch you sleep for hours (assuming you would). I love when you wake up, your cheeks are pink and scored with sleep wrinkles and your hair is chaotic. You put your head on my shoulder and wrap you chubby little arms around my neck. You make me forget how pissed I was that you woke me up at 2:45 and I will be a zombie reanimated by coffee for the rest of the day. You make me thankful that I have that time with you, just the two of us.

You are the person that turned our family from three to four. You have made our family whole. I will be forever thankful that you fluttered into our lives.

I love you, my sweet girl. I can't wait to see what the next two years hold!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Take the Barbie, Eat the Penne

Okay, but before we talk about Spicy Sausage Penne, I really feel like another issue needs to be addressed.

Today I took Grand Master H on a little outing. We had two missions. The first was to procure a birthday present for Famous Baby C. The second, and of course the real reason H was willing to go with me at all, to acquire yet another age inappropriate Lego thingy for His Lordship.

Like some amateur mom, I let Mr. I-AM-FOUR-NOW-I-CAN-DO-IT-MYSELF choose the gift he wanted to give her. After we established our budget (Barbie's absurd "Dream House" was out of the question) he made his choice. He chose this doll. Go ahead, check it out. I will give you a moment to be properly horrified.

When I was five, my heart's desire was a Barbie. I thought that I might actually die if I didn't get one. My mother had issues with giving her young impressionable daughter something so overtly sexual and, let's face it, stacked.

My mother was not of the Barbie generation. Her younger sisters had the original Barbie (the collector's item that I abused later on in my life, but that is another post entirely) that came with a wardrobe of wigs that would make Rachel Welch and Zsa Zsa Gabor drool. Barbie looked like a creepy cross-dresser with molded black eyelashes and too much indigo eye shadow not to appear trashy.

Instead of getting me a vampy sexpot, my mother opted for Barbie's largely androgynous younger sister, Skipper.

I hated Skipper. Skipper had dorky clothes, the bod of a 13 year old boy and no prospects in the getting laid department. I mean, for Pete's sake, she was a little kid. I was a little kid. There was no fantasy here AT ALL!!

Don't you just hate her? Yup, Malibu Skipper just doesn't do it. What kind of wild, drunken beach orgies would Skipper be involved in? I felt that Skipper needed to be tarted up a bit.

Turns out her tawny flesh was the perfect medium to receive ballpoint pen ink. Yup, way back in the 1970s I was rocking the Tattoo Barbie (okay stinking Skipper, but in my feverish little brain she was a Barbie, dammit). Skipper wasn't sporting some colorful Tramp Stamp, she was wearing that scary blue tattoo ink that you see on crusty old merchant marines that smell like cigarettes, booze and a splash of urine.

But I digress.

Mr. Smith was completely horrified that H would choose Mermaid Barbie with "body art" and pink strips of hair. I half expected him to ask where Barbie's Dream Double Wide Trailer was parked.

So, our little girl will have an age-inappropriate role model with a frightening Pamela Anderson bustline, "body art", and some pink weave. It could be worse, right? She will NEVER have a Lindsay Lohan with a gun-in-her-mouth doll. I don't care how much she begs!

Wait, does this mean my darling little boy is going to bring some inked-up busty stripper home at some point?

Okay, back to important dinner items.

Spicy Sausage Penne

1 (8 oz) package spicy Italian sausage (Trader Joe's might actually set you on fire, but you can certainly opt for sweet sausage instead of spicy)
1 box of penne pasta (I used fortified) cooked according to package instructions.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, minced
crushed red pepper, to taste

1 can diced tomatoes (since I only had a small can, I used that, but we usually use a 28 oz. can)
1 jar roasted red peppers (I added these because I was not in possession of more tomatoes, but it tasted great!)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup fresh basil, minced

Broil sausage until thoroughly browned. Remove from oven and slice sausage. Return to broiler for a few more minutes after slicing it. Keep a close eye on it. At one point when I opened the oven, there were scary jets of grease shooting out of the links at the element. Ewww.

Saute garlic in olive oil, then add crushed red pepper.

Pulse tomatoes and peppers in food processor a few times and add mixture to oil mixture. Add sugar and salt. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Adapted from Cooking Light, April 2010
Add sausage and basil to sauce. Toss with warm penne and serve with grated parmesan.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Triple (Minus One) Cinnamon Scones

King Arthur got me again with their emails. I am like a yellow chubby little sitting duck and they just fill my butt with buckshot because I am so slow-moving and easy to hit. This is just getting ridiculous!

This is the recipe in the original form.

Naturally, I could not leave well enough alone. You know, because I never do. Also, my back hurt, and I had PMS and my children were acting like total lunatics and Mr. Smith was working late, so I skipped the cinnamon filling. So sue me. I actually thought the cinnamon filling would push the cinnamon ratio too far over the top, so I decided to leave it out.

I love me some cinnamon, but too much of a good thing is still just too much.

Now, let's talk about scones.

I have never really been a fan of scones. They are arid too dry and not sweet enough for me. Also, I inherited my mother's ability to burn them beyond all recognition and render them inedible. Our oven is insanely hot, so this can happen very, very easily. In the blink of an eye, I have charcoal briquettes on my hands. Very frustrating.

True confession, sort of: I may or may not have eaten three of these for dinner. Look, I was left alone. There was so much going on and well, I was weak.

I would imagine these would be lovely with some orange zest glaze and some mini chocolate chips. Oh brother, here I go again!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mr. Smith and the Puddin' Donuts: A tragedy

As you may already know, Mr. Smith is a lover of chocolate. He is especially fond of chocolate breakfast items (Devil's Food Cake Doughnuts, Chocolate Croissants, Chocolate Cheerios, etc.)

The first time we traveled to the East (as in coast, not the Middle East or anything) he became a frequent flier at a certain Dunkin' Donuts in the great (and now snowy) state of Maryland.

Now it needs to be said that we do not have Dunkin' Donuts in our part of the world. Southern California is too snotty and pretentious for such things. Nope, we have Krispy Kreme*, and Winchell's and the like, but nothing quite the same.

Mr. Smith discovered the culinary innovation of a Chocolate Pudding-filled doughnut. These are heavily dusted with confectioner's sugar, so it masquerades as a jelly doughnut, but in the end, much tastier because it delivers the delectable treat of chocolate pudding for breakfast. What more could a chocoholic ask for in a doughnut, right?

Mr. Smith waxed poetic about these donuts for months. He tried to figure out ways to get me to agree to move (for at least several months each year) closer to the source of these donuts. Knowing what special hell winter can be in the Eastern states, I declined.

He persisted in his quest for said donuts. He even chased the dragon while we were in the mythical land of Waverly, New York, but there were none to be had. Total heartbreak.

At one point, Mema (my aunt and surrogate grandmother to our children due to the untimely firing of my mother-in-law from the position of grandmother), had discovered an alternate source in her neck of the woods. She even was working on a plan that involved Fed Ex-ing (is that a verb now?) a dozen of these sweet concoctions right to our doorstep.

Before the mission could be completed, however, Dunkin' Donuts saw fit to discontinue these particular doughnuts. Perhaps because the main consumer of this item lived on the West Coast? You tell me.

Each trip Mr. Smith has hilarious misadventures while finding and procuring these objects of his love. He requests them from the non-English-speaking personnel of the local Dunkin' Donuts, but they choose to fill his orange box with a mixture of pudding and jelly doughnuts instead. Joke is on the American.

Alas, it appears that Mr. Smith was not meant to be with his little powdered loves. Instead he is destined to savor the memory of their brief romance. Better to have loved and lost than never to have had the doughnuts in the first place, or something like that.

Pioneer Woman posted a recipe for Raised Doughnuts. Her recipe was for simple glazed doughnuts, poetic in its simplicity. It occurred to me that I might be able to MAKE the doughnuts that Mr. Smith has been longing for all these months.

After a brief pow wow, it was agreed that he would prefer the doughnuts filled with chocolate pudding and frosted with chocolate glaze. (More about Mr. Smith's culinary leanings in another post.)

For the frosted glaze, against my better judgment, I turned to my nemesis, Alton Brown. Mr. Smith and Grand Master H are extremely fond of his doughnut-themed episode. I won't be nasty about this, but if memory serves, it involved a puppet. I have a problem with any cooking show that involved puppetry. I am sorry, but Julia Child is probably rolling over in her watery (Neptune Society Member) grave every time he whips out a sock puppet!

 These are a real time investment and require some planning. You need to make room for a big bowl in your fridge (that is difficult around here). Also, the dough is made a day ahead and cooked the following day, in hot oil. Try not to freak out about this as much as I do. The source of my fear is my mother (terrified of hot oil) and The Churro Incident of the early '80s. A girl living in Western Pennsylvania has NO business trying to make churros. None at all. Hence the burns on my neck from the ill-conceived attempt to do just that! I'm just saying!

 A satisfied customer

Anyway, the results were mediocre (as far as the demanding Mr. Smith was concerned). The pudding (Trader Joe's Chocolate Pudding) was too rich. I will have to go back to the drawing board on that one. Grand Master H liked them. He pretty much just eats the glaze and leaves the doughnut, so he was happy with the results.

The evidence

So, if you have a few days to kill and you aren't deathly afraid of frying stuff, here is all the info:


1-⅛ cup Whole Milk, Warm
¼ cups Sugar
2-¼ teaspoons (one Package) Instant Or Active Dry Yeast
2 whole Large Eggs, Beaten
1-¼ stick Unsalted Butter, melted
4 cups All-purpose Flour
¼ teaspoons Salt
Canola Oil

3 cups Powdered Sugar
½ teaspoons Salt
½ teaspoons Vanilla
½ cups Cold Water Or Milk
Preparation Instructions
To Make the Dough:

1. Make sure milk is nice and warm, but not overly hot.
2. Add sugar to milk. Stir to dissolve.
3. Add yeast into a small bowl.
4. Pour milk/sugar mixture over yeast. Stir gently, then let sit for 10 minutes.
5. Melt butter in separate bowl until butter is almost melted. Stir to finish melting so butter won’t be overly hot.
6. Add beaten eggs to melted butter, stirring constantly to make sure the butter’s not too hot for the eggs.
7. Add the egg/butter mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook.
8. With the mixer on 3 or medium-low speed, pour in the yeast mixture.
9. Allow the dough hook to stir this mixture for a couple of minutes, making sure it’s thoroughly combined.
10. With the mixer still going, add helpings of the flour mixture in 1/4 to 1/2 cup increments until all the flour is gone.
11. Stop the mixer, scrape the bowl, then turn the mixer on the same speed for five whole minutes.
12. After five minutes, stop the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl.
13. Turn on the mixer for 30 seconds.
14. Turn off the mixer and allow the dough to sit in the bowl undisturbed for 10 minutes.
15. After 10 minutes, transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Toss the dough to coat, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place straight in the fridge.
16. Refrigerate dough for at least 8 hours, or overnight.

To Make the Doughnuts:

1. Remove bowl from fridge and turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface.
2. Roll out to 1/4 to 1/3-inch thickness.
3. Using a 3-inch cutter, cut as many rounds as you can, then roll out remaining dough and cut as much as you can, etc.
4. Cut holes out of each round using a 1 1/2-inch cutter.
5. Place both doughnuts and holes on a floured baking sheet.
6. Cover with large tea towel and place in a warm place in your kitchen; my kitchen is very drafty, so I have to briefly warm the griddle, then turn it off and set the sheets on top to keep warm.
7. Allow doughnuts to rise undisturbed for at least 1 hour; 1 hour 15 minutes if necessary. Doughuts should be visibly puffier and appear to be airy.

 Doughnuts rising under nifty heat lamps

To Fry the Doughnuts

1. Heat plenty of canola oil in a large pot until the temperature reaches 375 to 380 degrees—do not let it get hotter than 380 degrees! 375 is ideal; keep the thermometer in the pan to continually monitor.
2. One to two at a time, gently grab doughnuts and ease them into the hot oil. Allow them to cook 1 minute on each side; they will brown very quickly.
3. Remove doughnuts from the oil with a slotted spoon, allowing all oil to drip off.
4. Place doughnut immediately on several layers of paper towels. Count to five, then flip it over onto a clean part of the paper towels. Count to five, then flip it over again; the purpose, obviously, is to drain as much grease as possible before it soaks into the doughnut.
5. Repeat with remaining doughnuts and holes. The holes will cook more quickly than the doughnuts; about 30 seconds per side.
6. Allow doughnuts to slightly cool.

To Glaze

1. Mix all glaze ingredients in a bowl until completely smooth.
2. One by one, dip doughnuts into the glaze until halfway submerged. (Note: completely submerge doughnut holes, then remove with slotted spoon.)
4. Remove from glaze, then turn right side up on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet (to catch dripping glaze.)
5. Serve warm if possible, or room temperature.

If you are partial to chocolate glaze, you can use Alton Brown's recipe for Chocolate Glaze. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone if you don't.

In the meantime, we will still have to travel to acquire doughnuts for Mr. Smith. Pray for us all!

*BTW, did anyone know that THIS was going on at Krispy Kreme? Mr. Smith just ran out the front door!

Post edit: S'mores doughnut was good, but the other new flavors? Krispy Kreme fail!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Soft Pretzel Lust

 Shaping the pretzels

I never cease to be amazed at the endless varieties of bread-type items you can get when you combine flour, yeast, water, salt and some type of shortening. Depending on how you vary those simple ingredients, you can get so many types of breads, rolls and other yeast doughs, it is still dazzling to me.

Yes, my cookie sheets are THAT disgusting! Sorry, they get lots of work around here.

The magic of yeast is just so wonderful to me. I love starting with what looks like nothing to get excited about, and then wham, you have bread dough. The best part, you look like a total rock star when the stuff actually looks and tastes GREAT. Huge bonus!

I have a long-standing love affair with soft pretzels. My mother used to buy us these frozen ones and make them for us on occasion. They are good, but can get horrible freezer burn and can taste a little flat.

I have been making my own for awhile now and the results are nothing less than earth shattering. They are so much tastier than any pretzel you can buy (frozen, fresh or anything in between). They are lighter and have a satisfying crispness on the bottom. You don't need any exotic, special ingredients, so you can make them when you are having a craving.

The results

Ready for their close-up

The only bit of fussiness is the poaching, but believe me, the results are sooooo worth it!

Mr. Smith prefers to consume his pretzels with Trader Joe's Whole Grain Dijon Mustard. I am more of a traditionalist, plain old French's Yellow Mustard suits me just fine.

As soon as you taste it, you are instantly transported to the last baseball game you attended, the mall, the New York street corner...any spot where you would normally have a soft pretzel. The coarse crunchy salt. The tangy bite of the mustard. The crisp, golden brown outside and the soft lovely inside. Perfection.

These embody my childhood in a way very few foods really can.

The secret to perfect soft pretzels

Today we may try using them for sandwich rolls. I am unnaturally excited about this! I will let you know how it works out.

This recipe came to me from Martha Stewart via Smitten Kitchen.

Soft Pretzels
Makes 16 full-sized or 32 miniature

2 cups warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt
Vegetable-oil cooking spray

1. Pour warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast, and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy.

2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add another 1/2 cup flour, and knead on low 1 minute more. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour (this will depend on weather conditions); knead until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about ten times, or until smooth.

3. Pour oil into a large bowl; swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

4. Heat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (parchment paper, ungreased, also works). Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces (about 2 1/2 ounces each) or 32 if making miniature pretzels, and wrap in plastic.

5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip.  Twist into pretzel shape; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels; eight will fit on each sheet (you may need a third sheet if making miniatures). Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, fill large, shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda (and step back, it foams up quickly) and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.

7. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm. Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for two days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy.