Sunday, June 8, 2014

Building a Bread-baking Frenzy

It's been awhile, I know ...

This past fall, I completed my student teaching. Life was a little crazy.

When February began, I began my first full-time teaching job. I took over for a teacher who retired, mid-year ... three weeks or so before mid-term. Life was a little crazier.

Blogging is one of the elements of life that fell by the wayside. So was baking ...


School just ended. While I'm still hunting for the right teaching job, I'm finally having a bit of down time to fill with long-neglected loves. Getting out for a walk or a run on a regular basis, hang out time with my kids, getting my home in order, and, of course, a bit of cooking and baking ... It's a beautiful thing.

Yesterday, I decided it had been a while since I'd made tortillas, so ...

Admittedly, the dough isn't fancy.

Though it does the job ...

And who can argue with a tortilla that pretty? Even if I'm not obsessive enough to make them perfectly round ...
Today, it was bread. (What can I say? I run so I can embrace my true love -- carbs, carbs, and more carbs.)

To give you an idea of just how much dough this actually is, the bowl it is in doesn't actually fit in my sink. This is eight loaves worth of dough.
This is one of my favorite bread recipes. It works equally well whether you use all white flour -- all-purpose or bread, all wheat flour, or a mix that involves both. It's nearly fail-proof and has a fantastic texture. Grandma VanDoren's White Bread from is a great recipe for those who think bread-making is too hard.

This time I doubled the batch. It was enough to make this:

You  can't tell, but that fourth pan in the right corner is full of pull-apart rolls.

And this:

Four full-sized loaves of dough, ready to thaw and bake ...

The only problem I see now is leaving the loaves alone instead of eating until I'm bloated and incapable of thinking due to the carb-induced, food coma.

Obviously, I'm on the losing end of this battle. (Don't get me started on how the bread enlisted the homemade, strawberry freezer jam. So unfair!)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Black Bean Soup in a Slow Cooker

I have a bad habit. I don't generally cook with a recipe. If I do, I generally tweak things as I go along ... a lot. There are several advantages to this. I can make a tasty meal out of almost nothing. I can switch things up to suit my family's tastes and moods. We eat with a lot of variety. So, why is it a bad habit, you ask? Well ...

It sort of makes it hard to pass a recipe along. It also means that even when we have recipe repeats, they're not usually an exact repeat. Last night's dinner was that kind of thing ...

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup
I used a 7 qt. crock pot. Lots of soup, but it freezes and reheats well ...

Bacon Grease or Olive Oil or Butter to saute the veggies
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped fine
5-6 mini sweet peppers, seeded and chopped
Dried, minced onion
Jarred, minced garlic
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon chili lime Cholula sauce
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 can Diced Tomatoes, drained (I used the western family brand that has the Chipotle whatever ... )
1 can Rotel Diced Tomatoes, drained
32 oz. dried black beans, rinsed and sorted
Chicken broth (I used probably 10 c. of homemade chicken broth and added water until the crock pot was as full as I wanted.)
Red wine vinegar
Kosher salt
Dried parsley
Dried oregano
Worcestershire sauce
Tortilla chips
Sour cream
Shredded cheese

Heat your oil or grease in a saute pan. Toss in the carrots, celery, peppers, dried onion, and minced garlic. Saute for a few minutes until they're aromatic and changing colors. (Since they'll be in the slow cooker all day, don't worry about cooking them until they're soft.) Toss them in your crock pot.

Add the diced tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, Cholula, cayenne, and black pepper. Add your dried beans (no, they don't need an overnight soak) and your broth. Stir to combine. Add enough water to cover the beans by an inch or two. 

Cook it on high for a few hours. (If your beans are still hard, keep it on high at this point. If they are getting quite tender, switch your crock to low.) Let it cook all day.

Taste your soup. Mine needed something more at this point, so I tossed in dried parsley (about a tablespoon, I think) and dried oregano (about a teaspoon.) I also added about a teaspoon of kosher salt, a couple of decent splashes of worcestershire sauce, and some red wine vinegar. (I eyeballed all of these, including the vinegar, so I don't have an exact amount. It was a big crockpot, so I used somewhere between 1/8-1/4 cup of vinegar. Splash some in, give it a good stir, and sample it. You can tell by smell and taste when you hit the right amount.)

After you finish tweaking the taste of things, let it cook for another half hour to an hour so the flavors get to blend. If you want it thicker, puree about half your soup or let it cook down with the lid off. I pureed half and left it a bit runnier because we were adding sour cream, etc. when we served it.

To serve:
Crumble tortilla chips in a bowl. Top with soup. Add some cheese, sour cream, and avocado. Stir it up and enjoy!