Friday, March 17, 2017

On Tap For This Weekend: Lazy Belebath

The husband is a bit depressed or stressed this week, so I think some comfort food is in order for him. 

Thanks to Subbus Kitchen, I now have a very good visual of what dishes go with other dishes--love this visual of dish combinations, it really helps me out a lot, given I wasn't raised cooking (or eating!) South Indian food, and it's helpful to know which dishes complement others.  

My mother-in-law gave me a set of Cook & See cookbooks by S. Meenakshi Ammal years ago, and I cannot say I got much use out of them, as I don't believe there's something so necessary in the book: Menu suggestions. It's just straight recipes, no pictures, and the measurements are in metric--so prior to me getting a digital scale, this was a small obstacle for me as I never mastered metric conversions in school and today, I rely on either my digital scale for cooking--or a metric converter at work.

So my mind drifts to visiting with relatives this past October, and in the discussion I mentioned how I make bise belebath with leftover sambar. Maharajah's uncle quipped:

"That's not bise belebath--that's LAZY belebath!" 
Now, mind you, this uncle has always been so serious, and I don't get much opportunity to socialize with him (if I'm lucky, maybe 1-2 visits every two years or so), but this particular visit he really let his hair down. In India I've seen him only wearing dothis, and yet there he was (in Austin, not India!), wearing jeans and a "Super Dad" tee shirt, joking about "lazy belebath!" What a pleasure, and of course his joke just struck me EVEN MORE hilarious, as it was so unexpected. It's nice when I finally meet the "real" person, after being married into this family for many years now.
So! Rather than go to the trouble of typing out my recipe or formula, I'm just going to share this particular recipe from Cooking With Meena, as it PERFECTION, and is QUITE nearly identical to the method I use. Perhaps I'll share the link, and then herein on my blog, I'll merely identify whatever additions/"tweaks" of mine. 

Like the uncle said, "Lazy belebath," well, today I'm feeling very lazy (or is it tired/exhausted?).


I dry roast the masala, omitting 2 chiles (as my sambar is usually firey enough--perhaps even too firey for the Maharajah!).

I then dry roast the coconut, with: 1 tsp white Poppy Seeds, 1T almond meal and 1T ground cashew meal (from Trader Joes), and set this aside. 

Optional: I have 1/2 a bag of frozen pearl onions (also from Trader Joes!) on hand, which might be put to good use!

I use an electric pressure cooker--yes, even for this dish! It goes so quick, plus I can fry the tadka directly in the cooker, add the sambar and rice, and fresh roasted/ground powder for the sambar sadam, and pressure cook it all together for five minutes.

I then decide to "finish" the dish in the manner the French do, by putting the butter (or in this case, the fresh made ghee) in towards the end.  

As I said before, since he seems a bit "blue," I will probably make a small batch of pineapple rasam and thayir sadam to accompany, with possibly vendakai fry, too.

Luckily for me (and yes, this is going to sound crazy), I stowed a quart of sambar in the freezer here at work (don't look at me crazy--I always have storage issues in my freezer at home, and one day I had the brilliant idea to stow stuff at work. I figured if anyone complained, that would be the end of this storage solution. And so far no one has complained, and here we are.

It's 10:43 a.m. on Friday, and I've removed the sambar from the freezer (and it'll sit on my desk all day, thawing out), so I'm "halfway there" to the bise belebath.  

I just hope it cheers him up!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Without Commentary: Pie for Pi Day

Sourdough Pizza made w/(33%) King Arthur brand Sprouted Wheat
Flour, Dried Figs, Guaniciale (from Fleishers), Serrano Ham, 
Grana Parmesan, Olive Oil, Arugala, and Balsamic 
Glaze from Trader Joes.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Sunday Bake

Not much really to add here, but wanted to save my photos here, as they were so pretty. First up was a batch of the Buttery Sourdough Buns from King Arthur Flour--of which I subbed olive oil for the butter, and I also swapped out 1/3 the flour for KAF Sprouted Wheat Flour--the texture did not change at all as a result! Here they are, I dusted my hands with some paprika I picked up in Budapest in May, and this is what they looked like before proofing. So pretty!

Additionally: I set aside a bit of the dough, so I could make "Pigs in a Blanket" with four Big Red hot dogs from Dicksons. No picture snapped. They'll be for dinner tonight! Next was a duo of pizzas, one of this is pictured here. It's a simple pie (mind you in the dough, I put some dry rosemary and cracked black pepper), with garlicky-marsala mushrooms, paper thin sliced guaniciale, and a couple sunny side up eggs. So pretty!

Friday, March 03, 2017

Tonight's Big Bake: Ultra Dark Chocolate Sourdough Cupcakes w/Cannoli Filling

Pictures, of course, will be forthcoming, once they are made:)

As referenced in my previous post, I've got a couple things I'm going to either bake or set up tonight. One of which is a batch of chocolate cupcakes with cannoli filling which I'll take to my housebound mom, in honor of her birthday which was this week.

The cake recipe I'm going to use as my "jumping off point" is the Sourdough Chocolate Cake from Pinch My Salt; however, I'm going to tweak the hell out of it due to my own needs/preferences and the fact my mom's a Type II Diabetic.

Wet Stuff
1/2 C Grapeseed Oil
1/2 C Coconut oil
1/2 C Coffee
1/2 C Yogurt
1 C Sourdough starter (I fed mine this morning, and it's not too funky)
1/2 C Granulated sugar
1/2 C Splenda
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla

Dry Stuff
1/2 C Granulated Sugar
1/2 C Splenda
1/2 C KAF Sprouted Wheat Flour
1/2 C Coconut Flour
3/4 KAF Black Cocoa
1 T Ovaltine powder or Diastatic Malted Barley Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I'm going to make cupcakes, so YMMV if you use a 13 x 9 inch cake pan or a BOONDT! pan. Prep cupcake tins with nonstick cooking spray.

(What's a BOONDT!? you may ask! For further reference check out this clip from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.) 

In a large mixing bowl add the wet ingredients in the order listed and blend thoroughly by hand or with a mixer. Then, one by one, gradually mix in the dry ingredients until completely blended (about two minutes).

Pour batter into the prepared, greased cake pan of your choosing and bake in center rack of preheated oven. If using a 13x9 baking pan, bake time will be roughly 27-30 minutes, and cupcakes will be roughly 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. 

While cake is baking, make cannoli filling.

Let cake cool in baking pan. If you'll frost your cake, do so once it's completely cooled.   I plan on using a "cupcake corer" and fill the interior with cannoli filling--and love this recipe at Homemade Hooplah--but again, I need to tweak it!


1 C Ricotta
8 oz Cream Cheese (Room Temp)
1/2-3/4 C  Splenda or Swerve (Note: I might use a combination of both)
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Fiori di Sicilia
Pinch salt
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips (Note: Since I will be piping this filling into the cupcakes, I will merely garnish the cupcakes with the chocolate chips, as the chips will no doubt clog the piping bag.) 

This is pretty straightforward! I plan on mixing with a hand held mixer until well blended and somewhat fluffy. Set aside until cake is cool enough to pipe filling in.

Still Not Sour on Sourdough

I'm so damned tired right now, I actually typed out DOURSOUGH in the title of this blog post! 

Anyway, I'm addicted to Amazon Pantry, and every month or so, I'll order up a box of staples, and things that are on the heavy side (I live on the second floor, no elevator, so heavy stuff is problematic for me), and several days later, it arrives at my doorstep.

Every once in a while, while perusing Amazon, I'll find things I never knew existed, or things that aren't available at my local grocer. The most-recent discovery I made was Sprouted Wheat Flour by King Arthur.  On a whim, I bought two packages of it.

It arrived three days ago, and the very first night, I opened a package, and gave my sourdough starter a feeding with it. Now mind you, this is a new starter I started with buttermilk and APF--not to be confused with what I'll refer to as my "standard starter,"  which I hybridized with kombucha and is chilling out in the fridge for a while until I'm ready to deal with it. However, depending on how I feel in the immediate future, I might just use up that starter for crepes and waffles, and stay with the buttermilk starter--I'm truly happy at how nice and responsive it is to feedings.

While the buttermilk starter was happy enough with APF or "00" feedings, I have to admit I noticed not just more bubbles on top, but also, the starter seemed POOFY in contrast to previous feedings.  I fed it again last night. But before I gave it a feeding, I set some of the starter aside so I could make waffles for dinner.

Sourdough waffles made w/sprouted wheat flour, served with Comstock reduced sugar apple pie filling, and sage sausages from Dickson's.

When I woke up this morning, I fed it once more, as tonight I plan on making cupcakes out of the ultra dark chocolate sourdough cake recipe I've been using (and plan on making a batch of cannoli filling, as I'll hollow out the cupcakes and pipe in the cannoli filling, as birthday cakes for my mom). Additionally, I plan on making a batch of dough (Buttery Sourdough Buns on KAF), which I'll substitute a bit of the sprouted wheat.  

Have I ever shared the chocolate cake recipe? I need to dig around in my archives a bit to see if I have, and if I haven't, I'll have to do a separate post for it.  I know I've made THIS chocolate cake, but I could swear there's another recipe I use.

And the Buttery Sourdough Buns, I substitute olive oil for the butter since the Maharajah is lactose intolerant--and the buns turn out perfect regardless of this substitution. I plan on making the buns as-is, and set aside a bit of the dough, so I can do "pigs in a blanket" for the four hotdogs the Maharajah got from Dickson's Farmstand Meats last night.  Each of those hot dogs is a meal unto themselves!  More on this as it happens. I'll mix up the dough, do the initial proof, then prep the buns and pigs in a blanket, and bake them off on Sunday when I get home.

And Sunday will be pizza day, as I made a batch of pizza dough (and divided it, and froze half) two days ago, and the dough should be nice and aged by Sunday. I'm thinking of a garlicky sauteed shitake and guaniciale with sunny side up eggs. 

Anyway, I'm prattling, and wanted to share. When it comes to sourdough baking, I get a bit carried away--and I'm looking forward to enjoying myself:)

Thursday, March 02, 2017

DIY Yogurt: Preliminary Results

I did my first batch as written, and added one full pouch of milk powder--to the one quart of skim, thinking I'd boost the protein. 

I put it in the slow cooker and followed the directions exactly.

Did everything exactly, to be ... EXACT.

And yet, no set. There was a skin that formed on top, yet underneath the contents were still liquid.

So I brought the water in the slow cooker back up to a boil (with the jars of yogurt fixin's in there), and then turned the cooker off and put the lid back on and ignored it all day. When I came home everything was set, but upon further inspection it looks like before I put everything in the jars, the milk must've scorched a wee bit, as there were flecks of brown in there. Totally edible no doubt, but the eye appeal was lacking.

And then there was the matter of the texture. Obviously, homemade is not going to be that glorious, luxurious, smooth texture. Mine was, for lack of a better word, mealy. Perhaps the proteins all clumped together. I don't know, to be honest. This was my first batch, so I'm behind the learning curve.

My mother-in-law in India makes yogurt without a slow cooker, without a yogurt maker, she just puts the remains of the previous day's yogurt into a vessel with some milk, and leaves it out at room temp. Nothing more complicated than that. But then again, she's in south India, where January temps are in the low to mid 80s--not to mention warmer after January, so pretty much the optimal temperature for all things fermentable.

I think next time, I'm not going to use the slow cooker for cooking the milk. Rather, I'm going to lazy bones it, and nuke the milk in the microwave, and with thermodynamics being what they are, when you microwave something, it's almost Newtonian: just as fast as something heats up, that's how quick it cools down.  

I'll bring the milk to a boil in the microwave, making sure it doesn't boil over, and then let it sit out to cool off, and once it has, I'll add some yogurt to it, and just let it be--for however long it takes for it to start to curdle up.

Anyway, grainy/mealy or no, it was still salvageable. I threw a handful of blueberries into it, and blitzed it with my immersion blender, and all was forgiven, to a degree. So this turned out to be a good blueberry smoothie--but let's try again to see if I get this yogurt thing figured out.

So, About Those Pierogies...

A long-ago friend on a knitting forum gave me her recipe for pierogies in 2008. I've never said I was the speediest person on Planet Earth, and well, pierogies can be labor intensive. But I found that if you already have a bunch of mashed potatoes, this recipe will do rather nicely with the excess potatoes.

I have Trader Joes frozen mashed potatoes in the freezer at all times, so they came into play, and I didn't put cheese in the filling, but instead just added about 1-2 tsp of Vadouvan seasoning mix to make the filling interesting enough for the Maharjah.

Ingredients (verbatim, as provided by my friend):

2 cups flour, plus extra for rolling and stuff
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream (secret to better dough) need extra to eat them with..NOMNOMNOM
1/4 cup butter (soft and cubed), plus some for cooking
onions and butter for cooking them 

and i use potato and cheese for inside

My Substitutions:
1/2 Cup plain yogurt (as it was what I had on hand)
1/4 Cup Margarine and olive oil

My Addition:
1-2 tsp Vadouvan Seasoning

Method: (verbatim, as provided by my friend):
I mix the dry stuff first, then beat the egg seperate. then add the egg to the dry. add the sour cream and butter. and you can use a mixter with a dough hook. mix it all up until it starts to loose it’s stickiness. but don’t over do it. then let it sit in the fridge for 20-30 minutes at least. It will last up to 2-3 days if you want to make it ahead of time.
then you gotta roll it out thin….maybe an 1/8 of an inch….or else it’ll be too much dough to your pierogi. use a glass or cookie cutter to cut a bunch of circles. just put a litttle of the filling in there, and make a half circle…use a fork to pinch the edges.
boil them for a couple minutes. then sautee those pictures in butter with onions that you already carmelized. :-)

oh right the insides. cook taters like you’re gonna make mashed potatos. i liked to use the red ones..and leave the skins. i like to use about half an onion to about 4 or 5 big potatoes. dice and sautee the onion. then mash it all up together…potatoes, onion, cheddar cheese (sometimes i use manchego) , add some salt and pepper to taste, and sometimes some garlic powder.

All in all, I think I got maybe 18 pierogies out of that batch of dough. I divided the batch in half, and placed 1/2 the batch on a semolina lined plate and popped it in the freezer, and once they were frozen, I put them in a zip lock bag for later. 

However, what is pictured above is what was boiled and then pan fried the same day. Fresh or frozen they were wonderful. And speaking of frozen, when I took the frozen pierogies out a few weeks later, I popped them in my electric pressure cooker with about 2 quarts of salted water, and cooked them for two minutes on low pressure, then drained them and pan fried them. They were JUST as wonderful as they were when I ate them fresh!

The dough was not tough, and I received the greatest compliment from my husband on  this, insisting the next time we have a dinner party that I make these, as they are so different, and the couple we are planning on having over to share dinner with are Indian, and these are not something I'd typically make for them. He's even insisting I do up my pork chops too.  Such high praise!  Thank you very much, LindsayDuck! :)

Now for my next batch, I'm seriously giving thought to substituting 1/2 cup sourdough starter for the sour cream. It has the tang, and probably the same properties that make the dough great, and would have the added nutritional benefits of sourdough. Something for me to think about for next time, and there will be a next time! Perhaps I'll invest in a dumpling/pot sticker press, to speed along the sealing part of the dumpling making process.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Big Cook On A Monday

Clearly, I have gone mad. Insane, even.

Today is a Monday. Yet, I didn't do my weekly "Big Cook" on Saturday or Sunday as I normally do.  All I want to do on a Monday is sleep!

Tonight when I get home, in this particular order, this is what I need to tackle when I get home--a timeline of controlled chaos:

7:30 p.m.
Do up the batch of 2 minute HB eggs in the pressure cooker--do a quick release, as I need the cooker immediately after, in this sequence:

1. Retrieve eggs out of cooker. 
2. Pour cooking water into available pot for the pierogies. Turn on burner.
3. Pour a quart of milk into the cooker, and set it up on slow cook setting for 2.5 hours.
4. Once pierogi pot water is boiling, add salt and 1/2 the batch of frozen pierogies (see also: These are the pierogies I made a few weeks back--I'm stashing down my freezer!!) 

ETA: Note to self: I decided to set up the pressure cooker with 2 quarts of salted water and put the frozen pierogies in the water, then put the trivet in the pot, and a steamer basket and the eggs to be pressure cooked for 2 minutes at low pressure--the pierogies turned out beautiful!

Get wok and cooking oil preheated while I dice an onion. Toss onion into wok with a bit of water, to sweat the onion (for the pierogies).  

While the onions sweat and the pierogies boil, I'm going to do five minutes on my recumbent bike! 

Last night I already smeared honey-dijon and Shake and Bake coated two pork chops--and broiled them. So they just need to be reheated. And I got some roasted brussels sprouts at Whole Paycheck today, so that should round out our meal, I hope.  

Once I'm off the bike, I'm going to see if the pierogies are floating, and see how the onions are coming along. I'll then take the onions out and try to get a good pan sear on the pierogies. 

9:30 p.m.(thereabouts) 
I'll continue to build my pizza dough. I portioned out the "levain" aspect of the recipe last night, and figured I would follow MY OWN recipe AS I WROTE it, and wait until there's plenty of activity involved before building the dough.  

10:00 p.m. 
I'll turn the slow cooker off and let the milk cool a bit before continuing with the yogurt experiment. At this point, I'll add the milk powder and buzz it with my immersion blender to break up any lumps.

10:30 p.m. 
I'll punch down and divide my pizza dough into two equal portions (I love digital scales!); put 1/2 of it in an oiled container with a lid and put in the fridge to do a slow, cold bulk ferment for 4-5 days--so I'll make a pie perhaps this weekend; and then take the other 1/2 of the dough, and put it on a dish lined with semolina and pop in the freezer.

1 a.m. Before I go to bed:

1.   I will whisk in the 1/4 cup of yogurt (and some xanthan gum powder) into the cooled milk, then pour into prepared jars, and put back into my slow cooker, and surround the jars with a hot water bath, and put the lid back on the slow cooker (which will be turned off), and ignore it overnight to let the yogurt do its thing. 

2. Take partially frozen pizza dough and place in zip lock bag.

Then head to bed.

I'm getting tired just thinking about this! 

Pizza Quest: 50/50 Hybrid Success

I can finally stop my quest, my search for the perfect pizza dough. My hybrid meets the majority of my criteria (though I would like a bigger bubble in the cornicione--turns out there IS such a thing as Pizza Anatomy!) 

Additionally, this pie was made with the 1/2 batch of dough I froze before bulk fermenting. The pie turned out beautiful. I took the dough out of the freezer 5 days before I anticipated making the pie.  

BEHOLD! The pie I made last week. This one, I used a veggie stew called Turluh (I buy it in small jars at the Armenian market) in lieu of marinara, and studded it with merguez, and finished the pie with basil leaves and basil infused olive oil. No cheese as this one was for the Maharajah who is lactose intolerant. But BEHOLD! 

Isn't that a beauty? I just want to do an open-mouthed face plant right into it!
(And yes, I am still using parchment paper--I have trust issues with dislodging the pie from the pizza stone!)
I have also discontinued making one enormous pie, and rather, am now opting for two smaller, more manageable pies--plus there's the insane habit I got into of making an enormous SQUARE pie and trying to scootch it onto a round pizza stone. 

Additionally, I got additional tools for what is turning out to be something I make every 10-14 days or so. I buckled and bought a different pizza cutter, as well as a modest sized peel, as I'm tired of getting burned trying to transfer the pie from the oven to the cutting board. And my god, what a breeze it was to transfer this pie!  I have to admit, using the right tools is as important as your technique AND recipe. It makes a huge difference in the overall enjoyment of cooking/baking/creating.

DIY Yogurt: The Prologue

Much like my pizza dough quest (which I feel quite confident has come to a glorious conclusion), I'm now going to try my hand at making my own yogurt.

My mother-in-law in India makes yogurt every day, has a nice little system of one day old, two day old, etc, it's a constant cycle from one batch to the next. And she's doing so without a yogurt maker or even a slow cooker (like I have) and surely, I can do this, right? RIGHT?

Anyway, I've searched around for a few recipes to get an idea, and since it's just me and the Maharajah, I'm not going to make a big-assed batch. He's going through a Nounos kick, and at $2.50 a 6 oz jar, the costs rachet up pretty quick, especially if we BOTH eat yogurt.

This weekend, I bought six jars (thereabouts) to hold us for a while (and for me to be in possession of those great little jars, which I can see fitting nicely in my electric pressure cooker), and have been thinking on the topic for a while.

This afternoon, I went to Whole Paycheck to pick up a few items (and somehow got out of there having spent less than $20--I did not even know THIS was possible!), and got a quart of skim milk.  I have some pouches of dry milk powder which I plan on adding some to the first batch, just to get an idea of texture etc, and will tweak things in subsequent batches, as I do with everything else I do.

This "tweaking" I do, my cousin refers to as "Maven-ing," as I find it next to impossible to follow a recipe verbatim. But the first time out the gate, I'll try to stay as close to a formula.

Anyway, I've divided things in half, and will start my first batch as a half batch of another recipe. 

The ingredients list is quite short:

4 C milk (cost: Stay tuned... my receipt is in the fridge!)
1/4 c plain yogurt (cost: $0--I have a couple cups of Siggi's in the fridge)

Optional ingredients:
1/4 C dry milk powder
1/4 tsp xanthan gum powder ($13 a pound, but I have had it on hand for years--cost $0)

My approach is going to be:

Put milk in slow cooker for 2.5 hours. Leave lid on and let sit for 3 hours. Then mix in the 1/4 C plain yogurt. At this point, I'm going to try adding 1/4 C powdered milk (to boost protein) and perhaps xanthan powder, to improve texture as the yogurt sets up, and blasting it with an immersion blender to make sure everything gets dissolved. I will probably put the yogurt in the clean glass jars, and then let them sit in still warm slow cooker (turned off) for at least 8 hours. 

My timetable (if I do this tonight) will be:

7:30     Put milk in slow cooker for 2.5 hours
10:00   Turn off cooker. *I might put milk powder in and blast this with the immersion blender--as to do it at 1 a.m. might be too noisy for my neighbors.
1 a.m. (before I go to bed) Put 1/4 Cup Yogurt and xanthan gum powder in the warm, cooked milk. Portion into jars, and place back in cooker.  

Before portioning into jars, I'll put some Dalmatia Fig Spread in 1 or 2; and in the remaining jars, I'll put some elderberry syrup and a few blue berries and hope for the best.

Knowing me, I'm lazy and rushed in the mornings, so it's not outlandish to think I'll forget to put the yogurt in the fridge before heading to work--and I suspect the additional time at room temp can only assist the yogurt to do its thing. So at this rate, I won't know until Tuesday night or Wednesday how successful the first batch will be.  

This, of course, is assuming I get off my duff and do this. I'd have to set this up right before I start setting up for dinner tonight.  

Stay tuned.

Also: Stay tuned for the cost calculations--whenever THAT happens!