Not exactly baking

Homemde English Muffins Recipe  
In fairness to anyone who follows me on Instagram, I figured I should share my recipe for Homemade English Muffins. Of course, there are plenty online, and I won’t guarantee  that my recipe is different from any other one might find, it might not be the one with the most “nooks and crannies”, or the healthiest, but it is my own adapted recipe with the main point being that it is simple. It isn’t quite baking because they are actually made on a griddle and not in the over. This makes them an excellent bread recipe for the warmer seasons when one doesn’t want their oven on. 

Having the right tools makes this easier, and will enable one to follow this recipe exactly. It can be made without a stand mixer, but it will then loose the simple ease this recipe provides. 

Tools:  a stand mixer (at least a 325 watt or similar to Kitchen Aid brand variety that has a 5qt bowl)

A good flat clean surface, rolling pin

A circle cutter, about 3″ diameter or a large mug/glass will do

And a large completely flat pan or griddle. Can be cast iron, regular skillet, or it can be the electric kind you plug in (like for pancake making). I prefer now the electric griddle, it maintains temperature the best. 

Ingredients:

5 cups of flour (loosely measured) and a little more if needed. 

2 TBSP active dry yeast, or 2 packets

1 TBSP Sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 cups milk

1/2 cup water

1 TBSP butter

Cornmeal for dusting

Oil for brushing onto skillet 

Directions:

Using your stand mixture bowl, mix flour, yeast, sugar, and baking soda.

In a microwave safe bowl, put milk, water, and butter, heat until it feels warm to touch (about 2-3 minutes from fridge temp). 

Add liquid to the dry ingredients. Begin with a paddle style mixing wand. Once it is sticking together, switch to a dough-hook and continue to mix for 2-3 minutes. This is the kneading process. 

Dough should be somewhat elastic (meaning when you lift it and it stretches, it bounces back to shape). It should not be hard or too sticky, slightly sticky is good. Remove dough from bowl and brush same bowl with oil, cover with a piece of oiled plastic wrap. Let sit in a warm place for 20-30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, get a clean surface ready, a round cutter, cornmeal, oil for brushing the griddle, and rolling pin ready. 

Heat griddle to 300 degrees for electric type, for a pan on the stovetop, heat to medium heat. Brush with a little oil. 

When dough has risen, without working it place about half onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough to about 1/2″ thick. Cut with circle cutter, pat softly into cornmeal and place on griddle. 

Cook for 7 minutes on one side, flip and cook 7 more minutes on other side. Cooking can be aided by placing a sheet of parchment paper over the batch while cooking to allow some heat to stay in. 

While first batch is cooking, continue to cut and pat in cornmeal the remaining dough. 

  
Allow to cool briefly before cutting in half with a sharp serrated knife. 

Serve warm or you can spilt and toast them. Make sure they are cool before storing in a container or ziplock bag. Iif you will not be eating them all in 2 days be sure to refrigerate them. Make sure to allow some breathing room in the container until they have reached a cool temperature. 
One final note, I showed my mom how to make this recipe, she never makes bread, but this was so easy for her also, so even if you can’t make a loaf of bread, give this one a try!

Recipe: Orange Ginger Beef

It has been sometime since I’ve posted a new recipe. Over the past two weeks I’ve made this dish a few times and thought it is worth sharing. We’ve all tried to make stir-fry at home and found it a little dry, or at least I have many times. So, I’ve been working on a solution for it to taste more like restaurant Chinese food, and this one works pretty well. We have (kids included) loved it and I hope you will too.

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Orange Ginger Beef

1-2 teaspoons oil
1 pound tender beef, cubed into 1/4″ pieces
2-4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon orange extract
Juice of half a lime
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon ginger (ground)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon of cumin
Black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2-3 cups water
One medium bag of stir-fry frozen vegetables

Cooked rice or noodles to serve.
Crushed red pepper flakes and additional soy sauce.

Heat oil in large Skillet. Add the beef, then add the cornstarch and stir well. Next add in all seasonings, sauce and lime juice. Sauté until the meat is done, then add in the frozen vegetables and continue to stir.
Lastly add the water into the pan and stir gently allowing it to mix with all of the other ingredients.
Simmer for another five minutes and allow the liquid to thicken. Add more soy sauce to taste if needed.
Sprinkle with a few crushed red pepper flakes before serving if desired. Enjoy!

Bread pudding

So, this is a new recipe I’ve adapted. One evening, wishing for an in-house date, I looked at the leftover day old croissants on the counter and thought there must be something to do with them. So, I came up with this recipe, that was just perfect (accompanied by a pot of tea on the patio).

Croissant Bread Pudding

Ingredients:
6-8 mini croissants (or 3-4 large)
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup milk (any kind will work, even soy or rice)
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350.
Spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray, or rub with butter. Rip up croissants into small chunks, place in pan. In a bowl, beat eggs, milk, sugar, spices and vanilla. Pour over the croissants.
Bake for 20 minutes or until it is set.

Warm Vanilla Glaze

Ingredients:
2 TBSP butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp milk
Splash of vanilla

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Gently whisk in sugar and vanilla. Add a little bit of milk at a time whisking until slightly liquified. When it starts to bubble on the edges, remove from heat and spoon over warm croissant pudding.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg as desired.

Apple Empanadas

Apple Empanadas

It’s a pastry, filled with fruit. That’s the short definition. For those in Albuquerque, NM, I am jealous. Just stop in at Pros Ranch Market on Central and you can choose your variety of Empanadas; pineapple, apple, pumpkin, cherry or any number of fruit fillings.
For those of us far away, making them at home is the only way to get them like ‘home’. At first I thought, okay, that’s easy, a pastry with fruit, but after trying multiple varieties of dough recipes- with some not quite right and some making a terrible mess- I finally came up with a winner. (partly taken from another website, but I can’t find it again).
Now I would say it is easy again, the dough is simple and easy to work with. The filling I usually make is apple- because they are readily available. Although we like berry filled which I make from frozen berries.
I was so excited to make them I only have a picture of the finished product, but if I make them again soon- which I might- I’ll take more photos as I go.

Empanada Dough:
1/3 cup warm water (hot)
1/4 cup sugar
4 1/2 tsp yeast (or two packets)
1/8 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla flavoring
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cups of flour
Generous 3/4 cup shortening. (I use a margarine- it really makes a nice consistency)

In a large mixing bowl, combine water, sugar, yeast, baking powder, vanilla, and cinnamon. Let sit for 2-4 minutes.
Add in 1 1/2 cups of the flour.
Add in the shortening and mix very thoroughly. Then add in remaining flour. (this recipe has been pretty precise on the flour measurement, so no adjustments should be needed).
Knead dough gentle with hands until it forms a solid lump. There shouldn’t be anything too loose. (dough should be pliable still).
Cut or tear into 12 even sizes. Form into balls.
Roll each out individually into about an 8″ circle.

Place about 2 tbsp filling mixture into the center. Fold over and seal the edges. I do this by rolling it over itself a little with a pinch.

(optional: beat 1 egg and brush the tops with egg wash before baking)

Place on a cookie sheet or other baking pan (not glass or they will be a little soggy on one side).
Place in oven for about 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden.

Apple fruit filling:
6 large apples- peeled, cored and sliced into thin short slices
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour (for thickening)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla

Mix apples and all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Add in about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of water.
Simmer for about 5 minutes. Then set aside to cool a little before putting inside the empanadas dough.
If there is a lot of liquid to it, make sure you don’t put too much liquid to fill the dough or it will not seal and will make a mess over the cookie sheet.

(alternate filling: Strawberry)
1 16oz bag frozen strawberries (thawed)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour

In a saucepan, melt butter, whisk in flour. Then add sugar and thawed strawberries. If it’s thickening quickly a little water may be added. Simmer for about 3-5 minutes.
Use only a spoonful of the mixture and fold over dough and seal quickly so it doesn’t run. Bake as usual.

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A Mongolian summer favorite…khuushuur

Something that Mongolians like to eat a lot is meat. Mostly sheep, cow and goat but also common meat here is camel and horse. A little background story on meat, when we first arrive here I went shopping with some friends, who knew the language more than I did. As I was at a butcher, I asked for a roast of beef. My friend translated, helped me order in kilos and I paid and walked away. As I walked away, my friend was stopped by the butcher and said something. They had given me horse meat. Having already paid and being worn out from the shopping already I decided to make the best of it and take it home. I made a slow cooked stew- and it actually ended up alright, but I have made sure to never again knowingly buy anything except beef. So, all that to say, meat is very important to the locals, both for livelihood and for eating. I read an article once that said livestock in Mongolia outnumber humans 15:1. It may have changed since then, but still meat is the staple food. After meat, is “white foods” which are a variety of curds, cheese, fermented curds and yogurt. Upon my observation I would say the next most important aspect of the diet is flour product. Whether it’s bread, noodles or used for wrapping meat in for cooking.
Now that some of you may have lost your appetite (which I hope you haven’t), let me preface my recipe by saying, it tastes good, my kids eat it, and it’s flavorful. Think “fried taco without the fixings” and you’ve almost got it.
I make my recipe for this a bit different than what would be found in this land, so if you were to make this recipe and then visit, it would probably look the same, but taste different. In the traditional writing it is written as хуушуур, which sounds like huushuur with a strong ‘kh’ at the beginning.

Ingredients:
1 lb Lean Ground Beef
1 TBSP Soy sauce
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp black ground pepper
1 tsp dried parsley flakes

Mix the spices with the meat and set aside.

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Next, in a separate bowl mix
2 cups Flour
1/2-1 cup water
Dash of salt

Place flour in the bowl, Gradually add water and blend until all flour is incorporated. You want to make a soft dough that is pliable in your hands, but not sticky.
Then form the dough into a ball and roll into a long tube shape. Cut into about 15-16 smaller balls.

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Next begin heating a large pan with oil about 1-2 inches deep. Try to use a lighter oil like Soybean, Canola or vegetable oil.

On a flat clean surface begin rolling out each ball of dough into a very thin circle. If you start with the outside edges and roll out a little at a time it usually works well. Each circle should end up a little bigger than the palm of a hand.

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Next spoon a small amount of meat mixture into the dough. Don’t put too much or it won’t be able to close right.

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Fold in half to make a half circle and tightly pinch the edges to seal. You want to make a good seal so the meat will not seep out when cooking. You can use water on you fingers to help. I fold them over a little bit to create a good seal.
Place a few at a time in the hot oil. (Watch for splatters of hot oil as the meat cooks, make sure your kitchen is also well ventilated, those tips are from experience.)
Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. (if it’s browning faster than that turn down the heat). Drain on paper towels.

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In our home we usually serve them with Salsa but, I’ve seen them eaten with kimchee or soy sauce or other sauces of choice. Enjoy!

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Fresh from the oven Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits made fresh, warm from the oven are delicious, and I don’t mean from a can that pops open to scare the cook.
This recipe is found on the back of Clabbers Girl Baking Powder. I don’t follow it exactly because usually I’m substituting regular milk for soy milk which works great. The key to a good biscuit is when it’s made into a biscuit shape. I used to do more of a “form with my hands into circles” biscuit. It was good, but I didn’t realize it could be better. It is a “quick bread” in a way, and does require about 30 seconds of gentle kneading.

Biscuits:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp Baking powder
1/3 cup softened butter (butter is better!)
3/4 cups soy or regular milk
Dash of salt

Preheat oven to 375.
In a bowl, place butter, mix in flour and baking powder and salt with a fork until is crumbly. Add in the milk, stir well. Then, get your hands in and push the dough together until everything is incorporated into the dough, turn and press, repeating for about 30 seconds.
Lay on flat surface and either roll or press with hands to an even thickeners of about 1/2″ cut with a circular cookie cutter or a glass (with flour on the lip of the glass). I usually get about 9 biscuits using a 4″ round cutter.
Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes of until lightly golden.

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Biscuits are great with anything, soup, salad, stew, breakfast, fruit, jelly, and gravy. So here is my gravy recipe. I usually use bacon and make a bacon gravy now because it’s hard to find a sausage here that has a nice “breakfast sausage” flavor. So, I use bacon, and we all love it. (alternately sausage can be used in place of bacon).

Country Gravy

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3 tsp Black pepper
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Salt
1 tsp Parsley flakes
2 cups milk (usually cow milk or non-flavored soy milk)
Aprox. 8 strips of bacon

In a skillet fry bacon, be sure to crisp but not burn it.
In a saucepan, melt butter, whisk in the flour until it is blended. Add in seasonings. Gradually whisk in the milk. It will begin to thicken after a few moments.
Crumble the bacon and put into the saucepan. I usually don’t drain it too much so more of the flavor in brought into the gravy.
If the gravy is getting too thick you can slowly add milk a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
Serve over hot biscuits.

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Tempura and General Tso

Tonight we had some Vegetable Tempura and General Tso Chicken.
It is a lot easier to make than I thought it would be. These recipes are tried and true, as I’ve made this many times before. I usually buy pre-made sauces to dip the tempura in, so those choices are up to everyone’s own taste.

Here is the recipe for General Tso Chicken:

2-3 chicken breast, cut into small chunks
2 tbsp soy sauce
Pepper (a few shakes)
1/2-1 cup flour or cornstarch
Oil for frying- enough to put about 1/2″ deep in a skillet.

Put chicken in a large bowl. Mix in soy sauce and pepper. Toss in the flour (or cornstarch) until all pieces are evenly coated. Heat oil in skillet, fry each piece about 2 minutes each side or until chicken is done. Remove and let drain. Don’t crowd the pan or it won’t form a crispy shell on chicken.

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In a separate bowl:
1/3 cup of soy sauce
2 tsp Ginger
2 tsp garlic
1 Tbsp vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp onion powder
Black pepper to taste
2 tbsp flour (or cornstarch)
1 cup water
Crushed red pepper to taste (if this is not added it will be a little more like a sweet ad sour sauce).

Mix above ingredients with a whisk and set aside.

-dice about 1/2 cup red and green bell peppers, and 1/4 cup onions and sauté in a larger skillet.
Add in sauce mixture. Bring to a light simmer. Stir in chicken. Cook over low heat for another few minutes. If the sauce is evaporating a little more water may be added.

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For the Tempura:
1-2 large carrots
1 onion
1 Zucchini
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
(optional: mushrooms)
2 cups “Tempura fry mix” in Mongolia it’s in a Korean labeled package. I don’t understand it, but it’s got a picture of fried vegetables on it. I add about 1 cup of water to the mix.
-alternate recipe:
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
1 egg
1+ cup of water
Salt and pepper
oil for frying

Slice up all vegetables into strips.

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Mix the batter ingredients together. Heat oil about 2 inches deep in a deep pan or wok. Gently mix a small handful of vegetables into the batter mixture.

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When the oil is hot, place a few of the vegetables into the pan, keeping them a little apart from one another

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Fry for 1-2 minutes until lightly golden.
Serve with favorite sauces and rice.

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The new hair product- Bacon

Well, this isn’t all about bacon but, while I was working on writing out this recipe, I did use a little bacon grease. Perhaps my mind was on another planet. It was unintentional, but as I leaned over the pots on the stove to read the quart size, I promptly dipped my hair in the bacon grease unaware. I sat back down, looked at my pen, which I used to brush my hair away, and saw it was covered in oil. Needless to say, it was my hair product tonight and has washed out well. I’ll let you all know if it causes pigtails.
The menu tonight was Lentils and potatoes. Did you know lentils usually make it to the top 10 healthiest food of all time? They are like a super food, and made right taste delicious too.
Before being in Mongolia, lentils were never on my table, but since being here, and the lack of fresh produce that our bodies were craving, we decided to try it. This recipe has received it’s name from the latest movie series we watched. “The Lentils of Endor” The name came from our thoughts that it would be something eaten by the boys favorite creatures (as of last week) the Ewoks.
Another note on Lentils, usually people turn their noses up at beans, kids don’t eat them and grown ups don’t always enjoy them. I thought this about Lentils too, but these are terrific made this way. The boys all cleared there plates!

Recipe: Lentils of Endor

1 lb green dry lentils, rinse off
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp black pepper
1 beef bullion cube
2 tsp parsley flakes
Salt
3 quarts water

Bring above ingredients to a boil. Then lower heat to a simmer and let simmer for 1 hour. Check water levels occasionally to make sure it’s still covered with water.

8 potatoes, peeled and diced
1-3 Tsbp oil
1 Tbsp Green Chile powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1-2 tsp black pepper
Salt

(note: if you are fortunate to find or have green chile powder from New Mexico, it makes a huge difference. If you cannot find green chile powder, the equivalent of red chile powder will do, only add as much as you’d like it to be spicy)
Brown potatoes with seasoning in oil in a skillet and set aside.

Bacon- we use a whole pack.
Fry until done.

Alternately you could use diced up ham and lightly brown it with the potatoes.

Serve the lentils, potatoes, and bacon all mixed together.

It may not be the most colorful looking meal, but it sure tastes good and fills you up with something healthy and enjoyable.
If you eat this stuff, you’ll be as strong as a Wookie, or maybe an Ewok at least.

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(Reference: Raymond, Joan (March 2006). “World’s Healthiest Foods: Lentils (India)”. Health Magazine)

On a side note, we had it for breakfast the next day with fried eggs and green chile sauce topped with cheddar cheese on corn tortillas. It was amazing (and the boys asked for seconds).

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Mexican food, it’s ‘home’ cooking

Two nights in a row this week we had Mexican food. In the past when making tostadas or tacos, I’ve said if I had to pick a food to be my last meal that it would be it.
I wouldn’t mind having it every night of the week. The flavors are perfect. It is a perfect combination of meats, flour or corn tortillas, and veggies, along with cheese and spicy. This week was special because we found fresh avocado at a store here. A rare find. Of course they cost almost as much as a meal out for two- but it was totally worth it.
Since living in California as a child and then Arizona and New Mexico, tacos have been one of my most favorite foods. It wasn’t until I married Servy that I really got the hang of making it with a great combination of flavors and no “taco seasoning” packets.

So, here is my recipe for Chicken Taco meat. It is great in a burrito, in a taco, or on a tostada, also great on nachos.

Ingredients:
2-3 boneless Chicken breast (sliced thinly and into bite sized pieces)
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp dried cilantro (if using fresh, I use very little as it has a strong flavor)
1 tsp ground cumin
2 cloves of garlic, crushed (or 1 Tbsp garlic powder)
1 tsp black pepper
Juice of 1 lime or lemon
Salt (to desired taste)
2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 tsp parsley flakes

Heat oil in a skillet
Add in pepper, onion and chicken.
Add in all dry spices. Stirring frequently

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Sauté for about 10 minutes or until the meat is cooked through, add in the lemon juice and stir well.
At this point I usually taste and see if it is just how I like it. Usually the things lacking are more pepper or lemon juice.

Serve in or on tortillas or tostadas.
The typical toppings at the Pardo house are lettuce, tomato, sour cream, salsa, cheddar cheese, and more lime or lemon juice. If it’s a burrito I just add some cooked potato and wrap it all up. Guacamole is also pretty standard when we are State side, we were pretty thrilled to have it this week.
More recipes along the Mexican food line will certainly follow. We had it this week with Fideo, but Mexican Rice and beans are also common in our house.

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Sauce and writing again

So, I have made minor attempts at blogging on my own with not to much commitment to it. This time around, I’ll try to be consistent. At least as consistent as a wife, mother, and homemaker can be. Mainly this will be about my cooking endeavors. Which I currently have quite a few as I am living where I cannot go to the store and buy pre-made foods. Another reason I’ve been contemplating writing about cooking is because of a good piece of advice my husband, Servy, gave me. He said something like, “if you added patience, your cooking would go from being awesome to being over the top.” Now I know he is honest, because he has been eating, and enjoying, my cooking for 7+ years.

I’m going to start off with something simple. Homemade Spaghetti Sauce. Some call it Bolognese, because it has meat, we will stick with my simplified, non-gourmet names.
I love this recipe because it doesn’t need to simmer for hours to have a great flavor. I also love the smell of the garlic and onion sautéing. On a side note- the beef in Mongolia doesn’t always taste the way I would expect beef to taste, but this recipe always mutes whatever the odd flavor is to make a delicious meal that we all enjoy.

Meat Sauce-

1 tbsp oil
3 Garlic Cloves- don’t skimp and use dried- crushed
1 small white or yellow onion- diced
1 stalk of celery – diced
1 lb lean ground beef
1 tbsp dried Oregano
2 tsp dried Basil
1 tbsp salt
2-3 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 large (14oz) can tomato paste
1 can (14oz) crushed or chopped tomato
1 can (fill up tomato paste can) water
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 splash of Worcestershire sauce
1/2-1 tsp ground nutmeg
More salt to taste.

In a saucepan heat oil over medium heat. add garlic, onion and celery and lightly brown.
Add in beef, and dried herbs. Sauté until lightly browned.

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Add in cans of tomato and 1 can of water.
Allow to simmer a few minutes. Add in lemon, Worcestershire sauce, sugar and nutmeg.
Simmer another 15 minutes and serve over favorite pasta. Top with Parmesan if desired.

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Here are the types of canned tomatoes I use. Usually one is a crushed or whole tomato in it’s own juice. The other is a can- or two smaller cans- of tomato paste, the thick kind. I’m fortunate sometimes to find ones that seem Italian perhaps.

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