Welcome to my corner of the world. I believe our experiences are not only for our benefit, but should be shared. I hope you will find something in my journey to encourage and inspire you.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Greek Bread Salad

 We love this salad. I know bread in a salad? It really works though. You do need a good sturdy bread, one with a dense chewy bite. (We love the roasted garlic bread from the COSTCO here.) This is one of the few recipes that I make as written. It is the Barefoot Contessa's Greek Panzanella. Follow the link for the complete recipe.

Good olive oil
1 small French bread or boule
Kosher salt
1 hothouse cucumber
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 red onion
1/2 pound feta cheese
1/2 cup calamata olives, pitted

You can adjust the amounts of the vegetables to suit your families taste and what you have on hand. Even though the recipe calls for 6 cups of cubed bread, I always make more.  There is taste testing while they are being toasted, of course - Usually by everyone in the house. It also seems to be the favorite ingredient in the salad, so leftovers have very little bread.

For the vinaigrette:
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil

The dressing is pretty garlicky, which we love. You can use one clove if you don't want it to be so strong. Dijon mustard in the dressing may sound a little odd, but don't leave it out. Mustard helps emulsify the dressing (keeps it from separating).
You do need to plan ahead a little, since the salad should sit at room temperature for about half an hour to blend the flavors.
 This is great with grilled meats.

I did make the salad without the bread at first. I took some of the vegetables (that I cut smaller) and dressing and mixed them with quinoa (a bargain at COSTCO) for our daughter who is on a gluten free diet.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Finishing Well

My dear friend Anne Marie writes about homeschooling, family life, and her love for God on her blog Future Flying Saucers. She also shares the Bible lessons she prepares for her AWANA club.

I wrote about the challenges of homeschooling our strong willed daughter and my thoughts as we approach graduation for a guest post on her site.

Here is the link:
Finishing Well

Monday, April 1, 2013

German Chocolate Pound Cake

Years ago my mom and dad created a cookbook of family favorites. It included this gem that I'm sure Mom found, but Dad makes. He has become the baker in the family since he retired. I love that this cake is moist, chocolatey and not too sweet.

You will get better results if you use an electric mixer instead of beating the batter by hand. (Kate, you can beat it by hand since you don't believe in using electric mixers.) Since there is very little leavening in this cake, you have to work a lot of air into the batter for it to rise properly.

Start by preheating the oven to 300 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan or two loaf pans (8 1/2 x 4 1/2).

Cream 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter. You need to beat this for several minutes or until the butter is light colored and most of the graininess (is that even a word?) is gone.

Can you see how much creamier the second picture is?

Add 4 eggs, one at a time mixing  well after each addition.

Melt a 4 ounce bar of German Sweet Chocolate (you can find this near the chocolate chips) in the microwave in thirty second intervals. If the chocolate is almost melted, the heat in the bowl will probably finish the job, if you stir it a bit. Mix the chocolate, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, 1 cup of buttermilk, and 1 teaspoon of instant coffee granules into the batter.

A couple of notes here: If, like me, you grab a quart of milk instead of buttermilk, you can put one tablespoon of white vinegar into a one cup measuring cup and add milk to get one cup. If you don't have instant coffee, just leave it out. (The original recipe doesn't call for it.) For some reason, coffee makes chocolate more chocolatey without making the finished product taste like coffee.

Sift together 3 cups of flour, ½ teaspoon of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt. (If you don't have a sifter, you can stir the ingredients in a large bowl, with a whisk.) Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the chocolate chips, if you are using them. You only need to stir until all of the flour is incorporated. Over-mixing will toughen your cake.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake for 1 ½ hours. (70 to 80 minutes for loaf pans.) Cool 5 minutes before turning the cake out of the pan. Wrap the cake in plastic wrap or place in a sealed cake keeper. This cake is unusual because it is wrapped while it is hot, which keeps the cake really moist. Cool completely before serving.

It was a good thing these got wrapped while they were hot, since I needed to take one to someone half an hour after they came out of the oven.

German Chocolate Pound Cake
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 pkg (4 oz) German sweet chocolate, melted
1 tsp instant coffee granules, optional
3 cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 bag miniature chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan or two loaf pans.
Cream sugar and butter, then add eggs one at a time. Mix in the vanilla, buttermilk, and melted chocolate. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Mix into batter with chocolate chips if you are using them. Pour into pan and bake for 1 ½ hours. (70 to 80 minutes for loaf pans.) 
Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and wrap or place in sealed cake keeper while hot. Cool completely before serving.