Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stupid stupid ants

So this is a post I keep avoiding, but my husband says I need to write about it since it is a part of my baking experience.

There are ants that have recently decided to invade my home, particularly my kitchen. Last fall, we found one entry point behind the stove and poured a bunch of cinnamon along the cracks. That solved the problem...for a while. I can't remember where I heard that works, but it seemed to do the trick.

Then it started to get warmer again after a long winter. And back came the stupid tiny little ants. I try to keep the kitchen as clean as possible, but they are coming from all over! They have found a few other places to enter the house, most of which are out in the open, so I don't feel comfortable pouring cinnamon along the floor when I have two dogs. I am not sure if cinnamon does anything to dogs, but I am sure anything like that in a decent volume can't be good. And I don't want to use chemical sprays, especially near the kitchen where I cook and where the dogs spend time. So we are stuck with trying to figure out the exact locations where they are coming in the house and then trying to get rid of them. I bought some caulk the other day and we hope to recaulk along the counters in the kitchen in hopes of at least slowing down their entry. I'm sure they will find another opening once we close that one off.

Usually the ants are an annoyance for us, but there were two instances where I was just mortified. I made some cupcakes and took them in to work a few weeks ago. I put them in tupperware-like containers, but they didn't seal the best. There were a few tag alongs that got into one of the boxes and someone noticed. At least I had another box of cupcakes that I could still give away. But I felt beyond horrible and beyond embarrassed.

The other happened after I made my sugar cakes a few weeks ago. I wanted to bring some over to a friend of mine who had just gotten out of the hospital after having her baby very early. I wasn't sure how much they would want and also I figured that I would use her tupperware containers so no one would have to worry about having to get them returned at some point so I brought the whole cakes.

I took out some of the brown sugar cake and put it in a container. Then I went to do the same with the cherry cake. My husband kept saying 'honey...honey...' over and over. I didn't know what he was talking about and was actually starting to get fairly frustrated with him. I know I spill drinks or drop things on occasion, but he seems to think I am a lot more clumsy than I really am. So I just figure he was trying to get on my cake about picking up a large piece of cake with the spatula and was worried I would drop it. I knew I wouldn't drop it. Then after about 10 'honey's he pointed to the ants. Now I had done quite a bit to try to keep the little suckers out of the cakes. I stacked the cakes on top of a cooling rack and on top of each other and covered them with foil....still wasn't enough. I think I am going to have to go to herculean efforts to outsmart the stupid things.

So we put the cake back in the pan and made sure there weren't any ants on the counter. I felt so completely awful. I was actually on the verge of tears. It was just too embarrassing for me. And my husband kept yammering about whatever when I just couldn't wait to get out of there. And to make matters worse, every once in a while he would smash another ant on the countertop. It was just terrible. We finally got in the car, and I couldn't help but cry from embarrassment. And he laughed...because in reality it isn't the end of the world, which I know. There are much worse things to worry about in the world than a few ants.

So now we are on a mission to destroy all ants and all places where they may get into the house. And we WILL WIN!!!

King Arthur Flour Italian Bread

I made french bread a few weeks ago, and wanted to keep working with various yeast breads, so I opted to make Italian bread this weekend. Searching the trusty King Arthur Flour website, I found a good one to try (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/italian-bread-101-recipe).

When I started working with yeast breads, I chose to knead the bread by hand. But I went for the mixer method this time around. It was wonderful! I made the starter on Friday night and then combined the ingredients per the recipe instructions on Saturday morning before heading in to work. Using the stand mixer made life incredibly easier. I put in the ingredients, then had time to unload the dishwasher while still being able to keep an eye on the consistency of the dough. I didn't need to adjust a thing, which was so nice. No guessing on the amount of extra flour or water needed. It all just came together like it should. Why can't everything in life be like that?

This recipe called for the dough to be separated into three pieces after rising. Each piece is rolled out into a rope and then braided together. Sounds simple enough. I have braided my hair many times in my lifetime, so I didn't think much of it...until I had all three pieces laid out next to each other and then drew a complete blank. I tried putting the pieces in different orders and still couldn't get it right. Then I realized that I have only ever braided my own hair...behind my head. So I was all turned around when faced with braiding something in front of me. After a few more minutes, I had it all figured out. I transferred the braid to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (yes, I learned my lesson about using wax paper in a hot oven, which results in a very smoky house...see my entry on making the french bread).

After another rise, the bread looked so pretty! I was starting to get excited. I am making my own bread! And it LOOKS like bread!! Woohoo!!!! Into the oven the bread went. My husband doesn't like bread that is too crusty, so I cooked it for the minimum amount of time and immediately took it out of the oven and coated the crust with melted butter.

It really takes a lot of effort not to eat the bread right that very second, especially since I hadn't eaten a whole lot that day and it was already 2PM. I just knew I would burn my tongue. I held off and tasted the bread later. It is soft and wonderful. I am such a bread person that you have no idea how excited I am to be able to make my own bread.

I think it is almost time to start working towards the whole wheat breads again. They are a little more tricky than white flour breads and I have had many failures in the past. But now that I have a few white breads that have gone successfully, I think I am in a much better position now to attack whole wheat breads and be able to handle any problems that may arise. Ok, maybe not any and all problems, but I think I need to fake the confidence to make it through.

I can make whole wheat bread! And I will!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Georgia Wine Highway Weekend

Friday March 19th to Sunday the 21st was the fifth Wine Highway Weekend sponsored by the Georgia Wine highway. For a $20 passport, you could visit 10 wineries in the North Georgia area to taste some of their wines and also receive a souvenir wine glass to take around to each winery. Since I have started to like wine more, but am still not sure what exactly I like, I figured this would be a great time to visit North Georgia. We only made it to 5 of the wineries, but still had a great time. And even with sharing the tastings, it was still a lot to drink!

We started off at Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery in Dahlonega. I had heard of this winery before and wanted to go for either their weekend lunch and tasting or Sunday brunch but it just hadn't happened yet. So I made sure this was the first stop on the trip. It is a beautiful place. The small parking lot near the main building was full, so we drove around to the other side to be the second car in that parking lot. We walked through the restaurant and down the stairs to the cellar. Evidentally the cellar had been redone sometime in the recent past and they did a perfect job. The cellar led out to a deck with a gorgeous view, the kind of place you could sit outside and just enjoy everything around you.

So on to the Wolf Mountain wines: We tasted Chanteloup 2008 to start ($24 a bottle). I loved this wine, it just fit my taste buds perfectly. Per Wolf Mountain's description: 'this is a medium-body dry white wine with rich melon and apricot notes'. With this being the first wine at the first winery, I worried that I would fall in love with every wine. Next was Instinct ($26), 'a full bodied Rhone style red wine representing the best from our Family Estate. After aging for 12 months in new French and Hungarian Oak, the individuals varietals are blended together and then re-barreled for 10 more month to encourage the integration of the jammy fruit flavors of Syrah, the earth tones of Mourvedre, the bold structure of our Cabernet Sauvignon and the complexity of Touriga Nacional.' My husband enjoyed this wine, even more so than the Chateloup. I liked it alright, I do not usually like many red wines, but I could drink this one and be very happy. We also tasted Cabernet Sauvignon from the barrel. This was also good, but not quite as much as the Instinct.

Out by the bar, we tried Claret 2007 ($28) and Delicieux ($38), which is a Port-style red dessert wine made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Delicieux was the best red wine I tried all day, by far. I loved it and the other wines we tasted at Wolf Mountain. My husband and I discussed buying bottles, but decided to wait until we visited other wineries. Then we could come back later in the day or another weekend. It was only an hour and a half from our house, so that isn't out of the question. We left Wolf Mountain, which by this time had become very busy, to go to Frogtown Cellars.

Frogtown Cellars was very very busy. It felt like everyone was getting herded through the building. We tried 2008 Vineaux Blanc, 2005 Touche, Shotgun: first reload, 2005 Thirteenth Colony Merlot. The prices for the bottles were lower than Wolf Mountain, ranging from $15 to $25. We shared each small tasting, as at all the wineries and actually did not take more than one sip each for all of the wines. The taste could not have been more different. Until recently, I have not liked much wine and this wine tasted like those wines I did not like. None of the wines were appealing to either of us. By this time we were getting hungry and checked out the panini bar offered behind the bar, but that didn't seem to be appealing either. The only thing about Frogtown that we liked was their cheesebox. This cheese spread had a kick to it, perhaps from horseradish. It was pretty good and could have made a meal of just the cheese and crackers.

Very close by was Blackstock Vineyards. Surprisingly, this winery was not overly crowded. The grounds had a family-owned feeling to it, which Frogtown had lacked. I didn't write down the names of the specific wines we tasted here. The 2008 Viognier, which hasn't been released yet, was fairly decent. Something we would drink if it was available. Of course I liked the 2007 Rocking Chair Rose ($7), I seem to gravitate towards white and rose wines more than reds. My husband didn't like this one quite as much as I did, but said it would be something he would drink. We tried two other red wines, one was a Cabernet from the barrel. We also tried a port-style dessert wine, NV Touriga Dulce ($23). This one was not quite as good as the dessert wine at Wolf Mountain, but it was still something we would drink. It turns out that the person pouring our wines was on her first day, so many of the questions that people asked went unanswered.

We tried to visit Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards next and I am pretty sure we were right by it and missed it. But the GPS couldn't find the address and we weren't up for driving around the area. So we went on to Yonah Mountain Vineyards. Finally, there was a decent selection of appetizers, there was plenty of fruit, bread and cheese. I think my husband wanted to stay here just to munch for a while! Like all the wineries, except for Frogtown, this was not too crowded. The Serenity Cellars Radiance Rose ($16) tasted good to me, but my husband wasn't overly thrilled. I think the only wine all day long he said it really liked was the Instinct from Wolf Mountain. The 2008 Chardonnay ($28) and 2006 Genesis were both alright. Drinkable and good, but not our favorites. The best wine we tasted here was the Bearly Sweet White. I enjoyed this wine since it was sweet and tasted smooth.

Our final winery of the day was Habersham Winery in Helen. Habersham does free tastings of up to 4 wines in their shop, which is different from the other places who usually charge for tastings. While waiting for the Wine Highway Weekend tasting, we tried the Chalet White ($12) and Belle Blush ($11). Both sweet wines that I enjoyed. The 2006 Chambourcin Dessert wine ($22) was very good as well. I wanted to try the White Riesling, but they were sold out. The bartender was very nice and even washed our wine tasting glasses for us. The tasting consisted of library wines, most of which were from 2002 and were no longer available for sale. The also paired the wines with a salmon dip, olive tapenade and a chocolate truffle.

Next we walked around Helen for a little bit, trying to find a place to eat. Nothing really seemed to fit my mood at the moment. I wanted something that really stuck out to me and though the options seemed good, nothing was just right. We started to drive back towards Habersham winery and stopped at the Nacoochee Village Tavern and Pizzeria. Their two specials were corned beef and beer braised cabbage and chicken and ricotta crepes with a roma tomato cream sauce. Both of these sounded good to me and my husband will never turn down a pizza place, so we sat down outside on the small patio facing the road and the river. We ordered garlic bread topped with mozzarella and marinara and peppers on the side for an appetizer. Then my husband ordered a calzone while I went for the chicken and ricotta crepes. Both specials sounded really good to me, but the crepes were something new to me while the corned beef was something I could get around here. Other than a few bugs near the end of our meal, everything was great. It was nice to sit and relax outside and enjoy the food and the weather.

The wineries that were a part of the Wine Highway weekend, but we didn't get to visit include: Crane Creek Vineyards in Young Harris, Persimmon Creek Winery in Clayton, Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards in Sautee, Sharp Mountain Vineyards in Jasper, and Tiger Mountain Vineyards in Tiger. There was only so much time in the day and some of the wineries were a bit further away, plus I think we had had plenty to taste in one day!

So overall, here is our impression of the various wineries:
- top of the list is Wolf Mountain. Even though it is more expensive than the others, I have never had wine that I enjoyed so much. It was too late to go back to buy any of the wines we tasted, but I believe we will have to make a trip up there sometime to pick those up.
- next would be Habersham winery. The wines we tasted out at the bar area were actually much more appealing than the library wines. Next time we can try a few others and will likely come home with a few bottles.
- Blackstock had a great family-feel to it, which for us is more appealing than a commercial feel.
- There wasn't much of an opinion either way with Yonah, the wines were good, but not great.
- Frogtown Cellars was by far our least favorite. My husband couldn't stop saying bad things about the place. I am not quite that vehement in his sentiments. It is just a place we will not visit again, especially when we know we personally like other places in the area.

Hopefully we will do the Wine Highway Weekend again next year, it was so much fun and a great way to explore the area. $20 a person for all those tastings was very reasonable. Maybe next year we will be making enough money that we can hire a driver for the day so we don't have to share the tastings! Then maybe we could also visit more of the wineries that we missed.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A little bit behind...

I know I am a little bit behind on keeping up with all the things I've been creating recently. I will try to catch up this week, but things might be a little bit out of order, depending on what I want to write about first.

The only baking that I did this weekend was on Sunday. My husband and I went north of Atlanta for the Wine Highway weekend all day on Saturday. That will require its own post because so much happened! Overall, I had a great time and got to learn a lot more about what I like in a wine.

Back to yesterday. I had a few bananas in the freezer that I needed to do something with. I went for Chocolate chip banana muffins from the King Arthur Flour website. I am really liking this company. The flours seem to have a good and consistent quality and the recipes on their website and in my Whole Grain Baking book have all turned out well. The instructions are thorough and I can find helpful hints if I am trying something new. So of course the muffins turned out really well, just as I was expecting.

I also made whoopie pies. It was yet another attempt to make peanut butter whoopie pies. Originally I wanted to make a peanut butter cookie with a honey filling. But I kept having trouble getting the right consistency for the cookies. Though I did have a great result with the peanut butter sandwich cookies I mentioned a little while back, it wasn't quite the result I was after.

I tabled the idea of the peanut butter cookie base and went with a highly rated recipe for chocolate whoopie pies from allrecipes.com. Then instead of the white fluffy filling, I made a peanut butter filling. Finally I have a whoopie pie that looks and tastes like one. I forgot to take a picture yesterday, but as soon as I do, I will add that to this post.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pecan Pie

My husband's sister and brother in law will be stopping through town in a few weeks on their way to a cabin in Tennessee. I asked them if there was anything they wanted me to make for them. I love trying out all these new techniques, but don't want to have them all at the house all the time! So I figure this is a win-win situation for everyone. They asked for a pecan pie. I haven't made a pie yet, especially not one with my own crust, but I was excited to give it a shot. They aren't coming through town for a few weeks, but I figured this was something I needed to have a trial run of before the real deal.

I went to the trusty King Arthur Flour website and decided on their 'guaranteed' pecan pie. I started out fairly well, trying to be very careful not to mix the butter in too much so that it melts. I've read over and over again that the butter needs to be in tact to aid in the flakiness of a pie dough. I cut in the shortening (which adds to a tender crust and also makes a butter crust easier to work with), then went about adding the butter. I think I did that part well. Then it was time to add the ice water. This is where I lost things a little bit. I've read that you want to add just enough so that the dough barely comes together. So I added just a little, tried to form it into a disk as well as I could, then put it in the fridge so that the butter can get cold again and the gluten can relax. When it came time to roll out the dough, it was just too dry. So I ended up adding more water and working the dough more than I would like and putting it in the fridge again.

When I rolled out the dough this time, it still cracked a tiny bit, but not a whole lot. I transferred the dough to the pie pan and proceeded with the recipe. I placed the cooled pie in the fridge overnight. I was very hesitant to try the pie the next day for fear that I completely messed up the crust. I figured it can't taste bad if I don't taste it!

But I gave in and gave it a try. My husband and I both got a piece and warmed it in the microwave. The crust around the edges was a little bit thick, but I think overall it turned out pretty well. I am much less nervous about pie crusts now.

I was very anxious throughout the process, but I learned a lot. I need to add just a little more water to start with next time. I have a much better idea on how the dough feels and looks, so that will help tremendously in not overworking the dough. I will also need to roll the dough just a little bit thinner before transferring it to the pie plate.

I am hoping that I will have a chance to make another pie in the next few days or at the very least make some dough to freeze it. I think repeating the process sooner rather than later will help me retain all the little tricks and hints that will make all my future pies that much better.

Sugar Cakes!!

This weekend I decided to make two more sugar cakes...well one sugar cake and one variation on the sugar cake.

First, I wanted to make a sugar cake, with brown sugar and cinnamon just so that I could write down the exact amounts of canned milk, butter and brown sugar to use. I think next time I need to add just a little bit more canned milk to make sure the whole cake is gooey and moist. Also, I put the brown sugar and cinnamon directly on the cake, then added the pats of butter and then the canned milk. I think the cake is much more moist when I add the butter first. All good things to know and now I have a good idea on exact amounts for in the future.

For the second cake, I decided to go in a different direction. I made the cake base as usual, but instead of adding cinnamon, I wanted to add a cherry topping. The cake base still had brown sugar and butter and canned milk, but I did decrease the amount of sugar since the cherry topping already had some sugar in it. I wasn't sure when the best time to add the topping would be, but I decided to add it after the cake was completely cooked. The cherry topping consisted of dark sweet cherries, sugar and cornstarch to thicken the mixture so that it is the consistency of cherry pie filling.

Both cakes turned out well, but I will be sure to add just a little bit more canned milk to the regular cinnamon sugar cake. And both cakes taste even better when warmed in the microwave for 15 seconds. I am thinking I will try to make creme anglais and see how that complements my sugar cakes. It might make for a great topping, or even just a great part of the plate presentation.

Here is my cherry filling:
16oz frozen dark sweet pitted cherries, cut into quarters
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch

Bring the cherries and water to a boil and cook until tender. In a separate bowl, stir together the sugar and cornstarch. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture to the cherries and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Another good weekend!

I didn't get quite as ambitious this weekend as I have recently, but I still made french bread, bagels and glazed raisin bars.

I made the whole wheat glazed raisin bars as found in the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain baking book for our homeowner's association meeting this weekend. I wasn't expecting any difficulties and that was the correct assumption. I am really liking the King Arthur recipes, they seem to be well thought out recipes that work well. The whole wheat was not a distraction from the bars, which is good since whole wheat has a tendency to make things a bit denser and impart a noticeable flavor. I didn't quite have as much powdered sugar as I thought I did so I was only able to make 2/3 of the called-for glaze. It worked out well, though and people seemed to really like them.

I also made french bread. This was surprisingly simple to do. I made the starter on Friday night, let it rest at room temperature, then completed the bread Saturday morning. The starter was a bit pudding-like when I prepped it, just as the recipe said it would be. It was a bit bubbly and bigger the following morning, but nothing too huge. I kneaded the bread by hand and let it rise. The recipe called for one large round loaf. My bread was huge! I shaped it so that it was elongated, but I think next time I will definitely make two loaves out of this recipe. That was my instinct when I was shaping the dough, but since the directions for cooking times and temperature was for a single loaf, I decided to follow those instructions.

I do not have a spray bottle for in the kitchen, so I couldn't spritz the bread with water as the recipe suggested. This would form a nice crunchy crust on the bread. But my husband doesn't like crunchy crusts, so that worked out for the best. As the bread was baking, I noticed more smoke than I expected coming from the oven. This made me very nervous. I guess that wax paper doesn't have the heat tolerance that parchment paper does. The recipe called for lining two baking sheets stacked on top of each other with parchment paper, then dusting the paper with cornmeal or semolina. I don't have parchment, so I just used waxed paper. Not something I will do again in the future.

When the bread came out from the oven, the crust was very crunchy, even without spritzing with water. I remembered from the Cooking Wise book that brushing melted butter on bread makes the crust softer. So I took out some butter and coated the top and sides of the loaf in hopes of softening up the crust. That way my husband would help me eat the bread! The bread turned out great, I am very pleased with it. We had some yesterday spread with a layer of Nutella...that was just a wonderful snack!

So in the future, I will be sure to:
- not use wax paper in place of parchment
- make two loaves of bread from this recipe
- coat the outside of the crust with butter to keep the crust nice and soft.

As for the bagels, they too were somewhat of a success. I decided to use the stand mixer to knead the dough since the recipe said to 'knead vigorously' or use a bread machine or stand mixer. This sounded like the perfect time to try kneading with my stand mixer. I followed the time and speed and the dough came together just like it should have. The dough is a bit tough, so it bounced my mixer around a little bit, just enough that I couldn't get the bowl off when it was done! That was a job for my husband while I held the mixer in place.

I started to shape the dough into 8 balls of equal size, but they seemed too large. So I went back and made each ball of dough 2 oz rather than a bit over 3 and proceeded with the recipe. I started the water bath and the oven for the bagels and just before I was about to start, the power went out. A quick call to the power company said that it would be out for at least another hour. So we went on a very long walk and came back after the power came back on. The bagels had puffed up a bunch. I boiled and baked them per the recipe instructions.

The outside of the bagels were chewy and the insides were soft, the consistency was great. The down side is that they turned out pretty flat. I am not sure if it was from letting them overrise or if I just handled them too much when placing them in the water place and onto the baking sheet. It could also be from making the ball of dough too small in the first place. But overall, it was an encouraging experience.

Next time I make bagels, I will:
- shape the dough into the appropriate number of bagels
- handle them as gently as possible when transferring to and from the water bath
stick closer to the suggested timing (even though it wasn't my fault they sat around this time)
- try to make cinnamon raisin bagels

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Peanut Butter "Whoopie Pies"

I found a recipe for pumpkin whoopie pies and decided to alter it into peanut butter whoopie pies. I did not add the spices like cinnamon and just changed the amount of pumpkin to natural smooth peanut butter.

This batter was much firmer than the peanut butter batter I had made before, so I had better hopes for these cookies. Without knowing how much they would spread, I used my cookie scoop to make the cookies and spread them out on the pan. After 7 minutes, the cookies did not spread at all, so I briefly took them from the oven and used a flat bottomed glass to flatten them out. They weren't puffing up at all like I had hoped. I am looking for soft, puffy cake-like cookies.

I was a bit disappointed, but only because my original goal was not met. These cookies taste pretty good on their own. I wanted to add a little something to them, so I made some cream cheese frosting with vanilla and honey to add as a filling. For some of the cookies, I also added mini chocolate chips to the center. When my husband and I tried these cookies last night, we were both very happy with them. The filling was still a bit soft, but I am assuming that it will set up nicely given the time.

I did not bring these cookies into work yet since I wasn't sure how many my husband would want at home. If there are some to share, I will have to include any comments I receive on my blog.

As for getting back to the whoopie pie dilemma...I think I will use a well rated recipe for regular chocolate ones, then add a peanut butter and honey filling. I am not quite ready to give up on the peanut butter whoopie pie with honey sweetened filling, but it may have to wait just a little bit longer before I can get it figured out the way I would like. The whole teaching myself thing will be a slow process, but hopefully I will learn a lot along the way.

The other advantage of teaching myself is that I can pick and choose exactly what I want to learn. As of this moment, I have no desire to make my own pasta. But notice that I said at this moment. Things can always change in the future. Right now I want to focus on wholesome food and the kinds of sweets that I like and see where that road takes me.

UPDATE: The filled cookies were stored in an airtight container overnight and last night we had another taste. The filling set up nicely and even made the cookies just a little bit softer. My husband and I are both soft cookie fans, so this was a great surprise! This recipe will definitely be added to my 'tried and true' folder on my computer to be used in the future!

Monday, March 1, 2010


A few weekends ago, I made gnocchi for the first time. I was very happy with the way it turned out, but it was all eaten too quickly! I made more gnocchi this weekend and boiled it. I am going to freeze them so that we have a simple base for dinners in the future. I am assuming they will freeze well, but only time will tell on that one.

This recipe is not overly complicated. Start with 7 ounces of mashed potato (I baking a couple of potatoes, peeled them then mashed them, but the recipe states that you can start with 7 ounces of instant mashed potatoes as well) and add 1 egg and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Mix these together, then add about 1 cup of flour. Mix into a dough and then turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead until a cohesive dough is formed. I added quite a bit more flour to make the dough and it took a long time to knead it to a reasonable consistency, but I think it turned out alright in the end. I just need to start with a smaller piece of the dough to knead at one time.

I formed small pieces of the dough into long snakes about the size of my thumb before using a cutter to lop off pieces about 3/4 of an inch long. I pressed the back of a fork into the gnocchi to form ridges and placed on a wax paper lined baking sheet until I had enough to boil. To a large pot of boiling salted water, I added a bunch of the gnocchi. I stirred to make sure none of the pieces were sticking to each other or the bottom and left them until about 1.5 to 2 minutes after they floated to the surface. Using a large slotted spoon, I transferred the gnocchi to another pan. After they all cooled, I placed them in the refrigerator. Tonight, I will put them in the freezer for future use.

I enjoy making gnocchi, and it doesn't seem to be as complicated as you would think. It does take some time though, which is why I made such a large batch this time. It should last through a bunch of dinners for myself and my husband. I am looking forward to trying out different sauces and presentations for the gnocchi in the future.


In the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain baking book, there is a recipe for whole wheat tortillas. I wanted to give it a shot, it is not something that I have made before and it did not look too complicated.

I made white whole wheat tortillas and the ingredients couldn't be simpler: white whole wheat flour, salt, oil and warm water. The dough came together easily and the recipe said to mix the dough, then let it rest for 20 minutes before kneading a few times, dividing into small balls, resting again before rolling each one out and placing on a hot griddle.

The recipe was just as simple as it sounded, though I need to work on my tortilla rolling technique. I was trying to roll one tortilla while cooking another while baking my cookies. So I rushed when rolling out the tortillas, which resulted in several that weren't even close to being round. When I paid attention to what I was doing, they looked much nicer.

The tortillas cook on the hot griddle for only a minute or two on each side, so I had to be careful not to leave them on for too long. If I left them on too long, there would be a few burnt spots on that side. Hopefully that won't be too detrimental to the taste. I will be making chicken burritos tonight, so I will have to update this post with pictures and how I think they turned out.

Overall, tortilla making was simple and went well...I just hope they taste well!

Here is an update: The tortillas tasted great! The consistency was good, I was afraid they would be too brittle, but they worked out very well for burritos. Also, the ones that I was afraid were over done in spots did not taste burnt in the least bit. I will add some pictures soon. I think this will be something I make often at home. I am ecstatic that I tried something new and that it is a wholesome addition to our diets!

Cabbage and Bean Soup

I didn't get quite as much accomplished in the kitchen this weekend since I had to work both mornings and morning time is the best time for me to spend baking and cooking. I was able to make cabbage and bean soup, white whole wheat tortillas, gnocchi and peanut butter cookies (which I will talk about more these in the next posts).

I have been trying to increase the amount of vegetables in my diet by trying ones I am not used to and preparing my usuals in a different way. Growing up, we ate mostly salad, potatoes, corn and some green beans, so there are all sorts of things out there for me to try.

I decided to find something different to do with cabbage other than cole slaw. Don't get me wrong, I love the way my mom taught me to make it. I just wanted to see what some of the other options were. I suggested corned beef and cabbage, but my husband quickly vetoed that one. His vegetable likes are very specific and not varied at all. So I knew whatever I made, I would be the only one eating it. I was given a recipe for halupki, which is beef filled cabbage rolls by my husband's mother that I added to my recipes from my wedding shower. It is a recipe I definitely want to try, but I decided to go with something where I had all the ingredients on hand already: a cabbage and bean soup.

The cabbage and bean soup has shredded cabbage, onion, white beans (both whole and mashed), minced garlic, pepper and chicken broth. The recipe suggested that the soup is topped with parmesan or fontina. I had grated parmesan on hand, so I went with that. The soup tastes good, but it is not my favorite. There just seems to be a flavor missing that I can't put my finger on. I will have to think it over and see what else I can do to make this soup just a bit better.I have recently made a spinach and tomato soup and a butternut squash apple soup that I could not get enough of. I will be happy with finishing off this soup, but I do not believe that it will become a regular staple at my house.

I still have about a half a head of cabbage left, so I will still be able to try something else that is new to me. Or I may just make my mom's cole slaw since it has been a while since I had that. I will decide in the next few days.