Archive for July, 2012

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Wide Open Spaces

July 29, 2012

Once, I lived in New Mexico, right outside of El Paso for a year.  It is one of the most beautiful parts of the country.  I think I’ve been trying to get back to the southwest ever since.  I may come from the city of big shoulders, but Texas has a big heart and large beautiful sky.  We were fortunate to be able to visit down there last week.  I had forgotten how easy everything seems there.  The pace is slower, and although it’s hot, the weather is much better than in Chicago.  It’s not as humid there.

We weren’t able to make it to El Paso, we drove, but we did see San Antonio, Austin and Dallas.

San Antonio is a great city.  The Riverwalk is so unique, a water taxis can take you wherever you want along the river, or you can hop on a trolley.

The Alamo is in the middle of town, surrounded by kitschy gift shops and Ripley’s Believe it or Not.  We even spent one day in Sea World.  It was actually Meeshie’s birthday!

I thought we would like Austin better, but I’ll be honest we didn’t.  I’m not sure if it was because we couldn’t enjoy so much of the city with Meeshie with us.  It’s not exactly a family town.  The food trucks were great, the bats were a dud, and everyone seemed to try to be hip.  I kept calling them possers, which made my husband laugh.  The places we visited reminded my of Wicker Park, which for a while there was too hip for life.  We did visit the University of Texas, right in the middle of Austin,  and we loved the campus.

Dallas was interesting.  We spent one day near the mall and the other downtown.  Although, downtown Dallas is not what I would consider tourist friendly.  There isn’t much to do within walking distance of the hotels.  Taxis were hard to find and we were always in the wrong area.  I’m used to staying in a city and walking around to see the sights.  Dallas doesn’t have too many sites to see.  Which I thought was strange, the city has such a great and varied history.  We walked to the JFK memorial, and the book depository.  I was expecting something more.  All my life I heard the story from my parents about the assassination of one of our country’s beloved presidents.  My parents were married on November 23, 1963, the day after Kennedy was shot, so I’ve always been fascinated by this tragedy.

I can say that without a doubt, we had some of the greatest food on this trip.  Texas barbecue, Tex-Mex, Shiner Bock beer,  and gourmet food from a food truck are something that everyone should enjoy.  I only wish that we had been able to stay there longer.  Oh well, maybe next time.

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Fresh Plums

July 15, 2012

The last time we were at Costco, we bought plums.  I love Costco’s produce.  It’s reasonably priced and it’s some the freshest, and tastiest, produce around.  These plums were so sweet and juicy.  So juicy, in fact, that we started to eat them over the kitchen sink to avoid a mess.

I knew that as soon as I got them home, I would be making something with them.  I settled on this crumble recipe.  It’s quick and delicious.  It also allows me to use some of my candied ginger from Penzey’s.  The ginger, cinnamon and dash of nutmeg tie together nicely with the sweetness of the plums.  Warm or cold, this is a wonderful treat that will make everyone happy.

The only thing that I didn’t do was keep much of the skin.  The reason for that was the plums were so ripe, most of the skin came off while I was cutting them in half.

Plum Crumble

  • 12 Prune Plums, cut in half and pitted
  • 2 T Brown Sugar
  • 1 1/2 T plus 3/4 C Flour, divided
  • 1/4 C Old Fashioned Oats
  • 3/4 t Cinnamon, divided
  • 1/4 t Nutmeg
  • 1/4 t Ground Ginger
  • 2 T Candied Ginger, finely chopped
  • 3/4 C Sugar
  • 1 t Baking Powder
  • 1/8 t Salt
  • 1 Egg, beaten
  • 1/2 C Butter

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, 1 1/2 T Flour, 1/4 t cinnamon, nutmeg, ground and candied ginger.  Add the plums and mix well.  Arrange the plums skin side up in an ungreased, 9-inch pie plate.

In the same bowl, combine the sugar, baking powder, remaining flour, oats, cinnamon and salt.  Mix well.  Add the egg.  Using your hands, or a fork, mix thoroughly until crumbly.  Sprinkle mixture over the plums.

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan until browned.  Drizzle the browned butter over the crumb mixture.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is browned and the plums yield easily when pricked.  Remove from the oven and cool.

Serve warm or cool, with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

Here’s the original.

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Crusty Bread

July 1, 2012

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love bread.  All kinds of bread.  I also love making bread.  I came across a recipe recently that I knew I had to try at my earliest opportunity.  I’m so glad that I did.  This recipe is so simple and it’s one of the best breads I’ve ever made.  I think that says a lot, because I’ve made my fair share of bread.

What I love about this bread is that it’s fool-proof.  What do I mean by that?  Well it uses yeast, and although I’m a lover of all things yeast, I don’t like to use it too often in the summer.  The humidity can make it temperamental.  And it has been more than humid around here.  Hot and humid is one of the joys of summer in the midwest.  But this recipe puts the four ingredients together and you just forget about them for at least 12 hours.  You don’t have to stress about water temperature.  The longer you allow the yeast to feed, the yummier your bread will be.   It’s almost like make a starter for your bread.  Fool proof, I tell you!

The other great thing about this bread is that you bake it inside an enameled cast iron pot.  I have a beautiful one from Sur La Table, but feel free to use your Staub or Le Creuset one.  Baking inside the pot is what gives it that wonderful crusty crunchy texture.  This bread is great on a sandwich, or just sliced and eaten with some butter.

Crusty Bread

  • 3 C Flour
  • 1 3/4 t Salt
  • 1/2 t Yeast
  • 1 1/2 C Water

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add the water and mix until combined.  It will be very loose.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside, on the counter, for 12-18 hours.  Do not refrigerate.  Trust me, once the dough has sat for at least 12 hours, you will have a happy little yeast community.  Once the dough is ready, heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Place the pot in the oven, covered, for 30 minutes.  While the pot is heating, place the dough on a heavy floured surface and shape into a ball.  Place the dough back into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Once the pot has been in the 450 degree oven for 30 minutes, remove it and place the dough inside.  Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove the bread from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

That’s it, no need to grease the pot.  So easy and delicious!

Here’s the original post.

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