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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

BBA Challenge #29 - Pugliese

I had a hard time finding the pictures of when I made this bread.  And once I found them,  I could see why.  They were totally forgettable as far as pictures were concerned.



I made this bread while I had a break in the action before we really got going on our kitchen remodel and while I had a break from work during the Thanksgiving holiday. 

I honestly don’t remember anything memorable about this bread.  I totally know that many of these artisan  breads are so totally different, but if I’m honest, I feel sometimes like the Andi character in “The Devil Wears Prada” when she says that the two belts being held up during a run-through look exactly the same.  It seems like once you make all these different types of artisanal breads, they all kind of run together and seem very much the same other than their shape. 

Does anyone else feel the same way?  Or are you all just going to give me a lecture about how completely different each of the breads is?

To see my other Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge blog posts and to read about the challenge, go here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever? Maybe.

For my birthday this year, I received, among other things, a cookbook from my daughter. A slow cooker cookbook to be exact.

Now, I had requested the new Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated from my husband. However, he’s a guy and doesn’t remember details like that and gets to the store and asks himself, “Now, which book did she ask for?” And finally gives up and just picks one.

slow cooker cookbook The one I received was Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever by Diane Phillips. And I have to admit that after being a little wary and disappointed by not getting the specific one I had requested, I have actually been pretty impressed.

The is not a “throw in a can of this and a can of that” kind of a slow cooker recipe book. These recipes are the real deal. The author seems to have a very good understanding and does a very good job of layering flavors to give the finished project deep and complex flavors after hours in a slow cooker.

So far I have tried three recipes out of this cookbook. I usually withhold all judgments until I have tried at least that many. This one has passed the test.

A couple of things I will say about it. A) You cannot be afraid of bacon. Out of the three recipes I tested, all three included bacon. 2) You cannot be afraid to cook with alcohol. Otherwise be ready to look for substitute ingredients. Two of the three recipes I tried called for either wine or beer. And 3) You need a good place from which to purchase “soppin’ bread” because these are some good sauces.

And I have to admit, using my slow cooker has been nice. I am able to cook a meal mostly while I am at work and most of these recipes make enough for plenty of leftovers for one of our busier nights when my husband can just heat something up and not have to cook.

The first recipe I tried was called Bistro Chicken Thighs and is made up of chicken thighs in a tomato and wine sauce. It was so good that this is the only picture I could come up with.


One of the other recipes that I just tried this week is Hungarian Smoked Beef Braise. It’s like a gorgeous cross between a hearty beef stew and a pot roast with root vegetables.


Since we are headed into the fall and winter months, and my daughter said of this recipe, “The would be great on a cold winter evening,” I’m going to share this recipe with you.

Hungarian Smoked Beef Braise

Serves 8


6 medium Yukon gold or red potatoes, quartered
4 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into ½ - inch pieces
3 medium onions, cut into half rounds*
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 ½ - 4 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons (plus some extra) canola or vegetable oil
One 14-15 ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
Once 12 ounce bottle Guinness or dark ale**

* For the onions, I saw this “cut into half rounds” description a couple of times in the book. As near as I can tell, this means to cut the onion in half lengthwise and then slice (so that the layers of the onion make a rainbow type pattern when sliced).

** We don’t normally have Guinness beer in our house. But, being a good Texan, I do quite often have Shiner Bock. The Shiner Bock worked great in this recipe.

You will also need:

Large skillet
1 gallon sized zip top baggie
5-7 quart slow cooker


Arrange the potatoes, carrots, 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper in the insert of the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp.

Transfer the bacon to the slow-cooker insert and remove all but 3 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Heat the remaining fat in the pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, paprika, chiles, and garlic and sauté until the onions begin to soften ( 4-5 minutes).

Transfer the mixture to the slow-cooker insert. Put the flour and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt in the zip top baggie. Put the meat in the flour, toss to coat and shake off any excess flour.

Heat the canola oil in the same skillet over high heat. Add the meat a few pieces at a time and brown on all sides. Transfer the browned meat to the slow-cooker insert. Deglaze the pan with the tomatoes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Transfer the tomatoes to the slow-cooker insert. Add the Guinness (SHINER) and stir to combine. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 4-5 hours until the meat and vegetables are tender.

Skim off any fat from the top of the stew and serve the meat and vegetables from the slow cooker.

Friday, September 23, 2011

BBA challenge #28 – Potato Rosemary Bread

Rosemary is an herb that I normally have in abundance. 100_8912 I have a huge amount of respect for rosemary as a plant. It is one of the few plants that can survive and even thrive in the hard Texas soil and harsh summer climate. I planted a very small one at our old house and within a few years, it had taken over most of that flower bed.

When we moved into this house, there were two huge rosemary plants with trunks several inches thick at the base. We figured they must have been close to as old as the house (which was build in 1979-1980). Not long after we moved in, however, one of them died followed by the other one the next year. I have since planted a new one and look forward to it taking off.

But on to the bread. Here are just some pictures since I made this long enough ago (ahem, the pictures say July 2009) that I don’t remember a thing.









I made this bread in between when I thought we might be moving out of this house and when we started really remodeling the kitchen. So if my memory serves me correctly, I really rather enjoyed it and I would totally make it again.

To see my other Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge blog posts and to read about the challenge, go here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Meet Sully

It seems a little ironic that the very day that I posted this article at A Martha Heart that this is who came to live with us.


Meet Sully.


He’s half golden retriever and half yellow Labrador.


His daddy is 110 pounds.


He won’t be this size for long.


So we are enjoying it while it lasts. 

All of us but Gus, it seems.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

When a family pet and friend dies...

My little family began the day that my husband and I got married in January 1996. By June of that year we had purchased our first home. And then on August 29th, our family grew when Mike brought home our first puppy in celebration of my birthday that year.



Join me over at A Martha Heart for the rest of this post.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Your dachshund might be spoiled if…

Your dachshund has lived a very spoiled life if she spends her last moments lying in her owners lap and surrounded by her family loving and petting on her.

Oh Frankie, you lived with our family and brought us such joy for 15 years. How we will all miss you so.

IMG_0019 Frankie: 7/1996 - 9/10/2011

You can see other “Your dachshund might be spoiled if…” posts about Frankie and posts about our other dogs here.