Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sourdough Crepes

I have always wanted to make perfectly thin crepes, but somehow could not get it right. This time, in an attempt at making sourdough pancakes, I ended up with beautifully crafted crepes! I must say I was quite proud of them. All I had to do was leave out some of the ingredients, skip a few instructions and voila! You get crepes. They were delicious and they went very well with my cinnamon honey butter.

Sourdough Crepes

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup fresh milk
1/4 cup salad oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup sourdough starter batter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Melted butter or margarine
2 cups whole milk
2 large fresh eggs

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sourdough starter batter, and buttermilk; beat until blended.

2. Beat together the eggs, milk, and oil. Add this to the flour mixture and stir into batter.

3. Combine sugar, baking soda, and salt. Stir into batter, then let stand for about 5minutes.

4. Get your pancake griddle ready to go. Coat lightly with melted butter or margarine. Pour batter onto griddle using a 1/3 measuring cup.

Source: Adapted from Yankee Grocery Recipes.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sourdough Starter

Before there was store bought yeast, there was “sourdough starter”. A fermented mix of grain and water used to create dough. During the late 1800’s, pioneers traveling the Western US used to carry “sourdough starter” in order to make bread. They were very dependent on it as a food source and many families would pass it down from generation to generation.

I am happy to say that I recently received a very special sourdough starter from my mother. I say ‘special’ because it is approximately 100 years old! I was excited to receive it because I know that if it is properly cared for, you can make really fantastic bread. It will be like eating a piece of history. Because starter is wild yeast, it can be very unpredictable. But with patience and proper care, it can be very rewarding. Here is what I found out about how to care for your starter:

1. When you receive your sourdough starter, be sure to keep it in a clean glass jar. Cover it with plastic wrap. If you use a lid, be sure it is loose. The starter releases gasses when it is feeding and they need to escape. if the jar is too tight, it can explode.
2. Keep your starter in the fridge if you are not going to use it. The cold will slow down its metabolism.
3. Feed your starter about every 2 weeks. Chances are starter will be fine if you don’t feed it every 2 weeks, but you don’t want to risk leaving it at the brink of death either.

1. Check to see if there is any dark liquid at the top of the jar. The dark liquid is called Hooch and it is alcohol produced by the starter after it is done feeding. The dark liquid is also a good indication that your starter needs to be fed. Too much alcohol content can kill your starter, so if it is very dark, pour it off. Otherwise mix it with a sanitized wooden or plastic spoon. Stainless steel utensils are ok, but not any other metals as it can kill the starter.
2. Pour your starter into a medium sized glass bowl. Ad 1/2 a cup of water and whisk. Then add ½ cup of flour and whisk again.
3. Cover the bowl and place in a warm dark place for 12 hours. I like to put mine in the microwave over night.
4. In the morning, you’ll notice the starter will be double the size. If you plan to cook with it, remove 1 cup of the starter for use and store the rest back in the fridge. Be sure to feed the remaining starter before putting back in the fridge. It will need 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour.

These basic instructions should help keep the starter happy. If well cared for, the starter can live indefinitely. I plan to make sourdough pancakes in my next post so check back soon for the recipe!

For more information on how to make care for your starter or make your own, check this informative website or this.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Vanilla Lemonade

I went to a bakery downtown in Las Vegas and they had the best lemonade I had ever tasted. I made every effort to get the server to reveal some of the ingredients of the lemonade. The secret? Vanilla sugar. Now where on earth do you get vanilla sugar? Well after much research, I found that there really isn't a recipe for vanilla sugar. But there are two ways to make your own. 1) Bury a cleaned and dried vanilla bean in a container holding 2 cups of sugar. Cover container tightly and put aside for 1 week. The vanilla bean will be good as long as it is fragrant and you can replenish the sugar as it is used. Or, 2) take the cleaned and dried vanilla bean and mix with 2 cups of sugar in a food processor on high. Once you have vanilla sugar, you can make vanilla lemonade!

Vanilla Lemonade

6 juicy fresh lemons
3/4 cup of vanilla sugar
6 cups of water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 of a vanilla bean

1. Stir together 3/4 cups of sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan on low heat. Using a sharp knife, slice a vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape the seeds from the skin using the edge of the knife. Add seeds and vanilla bean into saucepan. Remove when sugar is dissolved and let cool. This will be your simple syrup.

2. Juice 6 lemons over a bowl. Run the liquid through a sieve to remove any seeds. Add lemon concentrate, simple syrup, 5 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract into the pitcher. Stir well.

3. Taste mixture. Adjust sweetness with more sugar or use more water if too sweet.

4. Serve over tall glasses with ice and enjoy!

Source: Myself.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Loved Dog

My husband got me this book on CD and I really enjoyed it. I am a first time new pet owner and as such, I want to know how to be the best Mommy I can be for my dog Muppet. This book has really helped me to better understand how dogs think and Tamar Geller, with her loving training tips, shows you how to build trust with your dog in a way that is nonagressive. You can have a great relationship with your pet without having to use choke chains, shock collars, and any other tools that would break your dogs spirit.

I have applied many of Tamar Geller's methods to train Muppet and they have been very successful. My favorite tool has been the three levels of positive reinforcement hierarchy--bronze, silver and gold treats. The bronze reward can be a small treat that is used when your dog does something he has already learned and does well. Silver treats are used when the stakes of learning are a little bit higher. Gold treats are used so that your dog can perform when the stakes are high. I use pieces of turkey bacon or chicken as Gold treats to get Muppet to do whatever I want or to get him to learn something new that is difficult. Once he learns the behavior or cue, I reward him randomly so that he can stay interested--this is called the Las Vegas method. The dog should receive a lot of treats on random occasions only -- as if it had just won the jackpot. This method also works effectively on tourists, I would know, I live in Las Vegas!!

The gold treats have worked wonders on Muppet when we give him a bath. He gets so excited about the chicken he is going to receive that he doesn't even realize that he is in water. I have even been able to blow dry his fur without a fuss using the gold treats!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pesto Pasta

The last time I tried making pesto was a couple years ago and it was not very appetizing. The recipe called for spinach leaves instead of basil and it was a disaster. I also added raw garlic and it just over powered the taste. I thought that would be the last of my pesto making days. But recently I got brave and decided I would try it again. This time I used basil. I combined the pesto with simple pasta and it was DELICIOUSO! I was a little afraid with the garlic so I was conservative with the portion. I was very pleased with the outcome. It tasted great. My only complaint was that I was a cup short of basil. For next time, I’ll be sure to have more basil on hand and maybe I’ll get a little braver with garlic. This dish would also go great with cooked cubes of chicken.


2 cloves of garlic, with peels
¼ cup of pine nuts
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed thoroughly
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Pinch table salt
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1. Toast pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently until golden and fragrant—2 minutes. Be careful as the pine nuts burn easily. Remove from skillet. Add unpeeled garlic to the empty skillet and toast, shaking the pan occasionally—5 minutes. Let cool, then peel. Transfer pine nuts and garlic to the food processor.

2. Place the basil in a bag. Roll over with a rolling pin until all the leaves are bruised. Process pine nuts and garlic until finely chopped. Add all remaining pesto ingredients, except Parmesan, and process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a small bowl, stir in the cheese and pinch of salt.

3. Combine with al dente pasta and serve. Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from Annies Eats

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cherry Garcia Frozen Custard

With all the cherries that I have on hand, I decided that I absolutely had to try and make a Ben & Jerries ice cream copy cat--Cherry Garcia. I don't have an ice cream maker of my own, but my mother-in-law was kind enough to let me borrow hers. With the ice cream maker in my possession, I have been feeling giddy all week...as though I had just unwrapped a christmas gift. I was very excited to make ice cream for the first time ever and I was determined to make great ice cream on my first try. Originally I had planned to follow the recipe exactly, but the 2 raw eggs that it called for kind of threw me off. Raw eggs? It just kind of screamed, "Salmonella"! I decided to improvise by cooking the eggs. The end result--frozen custard!

Cherry Garcia Frozen Custard

1/2 cup of bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup fresh cherries, pitted and quartered (mine were frozen)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk (vitamin D milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until light and fluffy. Continue whisking and add the sugar, a little at a time. Whisk until completely blended.

2. Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until bubbles form around the edges. Slowly add the warm milk mixture to the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling.

3. Pour mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until mixture is thickened. Stir in vanilla extract. Let cool and then cover. Chill in refrigerator until completely chilled (2 hours).

4. Once the mixture is well chilled, fold in chocolate and cherries. Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Source: Adapted from Annies Eats.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cherries, cherries and more cherries!

On Friday I went home with a 20lb box of cherries that came straight from a farm in Utah. I had placed the order a few months back after I received an email from my church that someone from Utah was going to be arriving to Vegas with a large shipment of cherries. I wasn’t prepared to have so many cherries since I didn’t think my order went through and I quickly forget about it. But when I got the call that my shipment had arrived, I decided to go with it. I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to start exercising my food storage skills. But it was probably more than I had bargained for...

So I decided to make a cherry salsa that I have been dying to make for some time. It turned our great! I topped it on some grilled chicken and the cherries made all the difference in the taste. The only thing that I would add for next is the cilantro.

Grilled Chicken with Cherry Salsa

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for grates
2 cups Bing cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice or lemon juice
1/2 tablespoongarlic salt
coarse salt and pepper for taste
4 chicken breasts

1 Heat grill to high; lightly oil grates. In a medium bowl, combine cherries, onions, cilantro (optional), and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine; set salsa aside.

2 In a small bowl, stir together garlic salt, olive oil and pepper. Dip chicken in mixture and coat well.

3 Grill chicken until done. Be sure not to overcook. Serve chicken topped with cherry salsa.

Source: Adapted from Everyday Food, June 2008

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Muppet Graduates from Puppy School

Hooray! Muppet graduated from puppy obedience school. He is on his way to becoming a well mannered little pup. I entered Muppet in obedience school when he was about 5 months old and he has really picked up the lessons quickly. The classes were a lot of fun and it gave us a great opportunity to bond. Here are some of the tips and tricks that I learned:

Watch Me: Most dogs do not like to make eye contact. In the dog world, eye contact usually indicates a confrontation. However, we can teach our dog’s that eye contact is ok. Here’s how I taught Muppet:

• I hold a treat right next to my eye and say, “Muppet, Watch Me”.
• When Muppet looks at me, I reward him with a small treat.

Sit: Before I could teach Muppet any trick, he had to learn to sit. This is the basic building block to all the other tricks. Here’s how Muppet learned to sit:

• I put a treat between my thumb and index finger.
• I hold the treat slightly in front of Muppet’s nose.
• I slowly lift the treat above Muppet’s head – this will force him to look up.
• As Muppet looks up, he automatically sits.
• I reward him with the treat for sitting.
• Once Muppet picked up the hand signal, I added the cue word “sit”.

Lay: Teaching Muppet to lie down was very easy. Usually everyone knows this trick as ‘down’. I had to switch the cue to ‘lay’ instead because I had already taught Muppet that ‘down’ meant to get off the couch or bed.

• I start Muppet with the sit position.
• I hold a treat between my thumb and forefinger.
• I keep the treat close to Muppet’s nose, and slowly lower my hand to the floor—Muppet usually follows my hand down.
• When Muppet assumes the lay position, I reward him with the treat.

Once Muppet started to pick up all the tricks, I started to reward him randomly instead of consistently. That way he never knows when there might be a treat, but it keeps him interested. I also shower him with ALOT of praise.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Welcome to my new blog!

I've been wanting to start a blog for quite some time but was too intimidated by the idea of it all. A few night ago I decided to take the plunge and here we are! I will be posting pictures, book reviews, recipes, and most importantly stories about our dog Muppet. Enjoy!