Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Recital

This coming Saturday is my husband's recital. For those who are not able to make it, I thought I'd do a little post with some pictures. We went to the local park to take some pictures for his recital posters. There's this really cool gardening shed with peeling paint that has a lot of character to it.

 First a bit about his recital- this is his first recital for his GPD degree (Graduate Professional Diploma) and he's playing some Bach, Beethoven, and Boccherini. (For those of you who are reading this and can come, it's at 8pm in Berkman Recital Hall at the  U. of Hartford.) I'm so glad I don't have to make the trek from Baltimore this year and can even put out a little reception for him. When I asked him what he would like for the reception his reply was in one word: chocolate. Then he promptly began to name things: brownies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cheesecake...Yeah ok, Karl... I think we'll have brownies and fruit with chocolate dip, and then some other non-chocolate items. I'm thinking coconut macaroons, some salty items, and drinks. Ok, enough about food (food always distracts me). Here's my studly hubs and his cello:

I ended up using only one picture in the poster, but it sure was fun to these (and a bunch more!) shots! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Easy Bread-No Machine or Kneading Involved

When it comes to making bread I am lazy. Let's face it- why should we be using our energy to pound and punch a sticky mess of bread goo when we could be using for better stirring up a batch of chocolate chip cookies or a smooth and creamy cheesecake? Besides, bread is a staple. We use a lot of it every day- toast and jam, sandwiches, croutons, french onion soup, bread pudding, snacking with olive oil and balsamic- the choices are endless. For a bread that I can make every day I need it to be shockingly easy. That is where this Easy Bread recipe comes in. It uses 4 ingredients:
That's it.

And you don't even have to really touch the dough with your hands. (Who likes to spend 5 minutes at the sink scraping sticky, yeasty dough from under their fingernails?) The end result is something in between an Italian loaf and sourdough. Quite tasty. Here's what mine usually looked like:

Sometimes I shape the loaf into a long Italian-style loaf instead.  My husband's favorite is to toast it and slather on some butter. He says its very tasty and a loaf usually doesn't last more than 2 days. We eat it with soup, toast in the morning (like I said before) and my new favorite, toasted with cream cheese and fresh pineapple. Rambling aside, here's the recipe:

In a LARGE mixing bowl combine:

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. yeast (the kind that comes in the little packets)
1 1/2 cups water

I just stir it around with a rubber scraper until its all moistened. sometimes this requires a few extra drops of water.

Cover loosely with a plastic grocery bag. Let rise for 4 hours.

At the end of 4 hours, flour your counter  and pour out the risen dough. 
Take the rubber scraper and turn it around your bread. Fold in thirds 3 times (meaning tuck the dough ball under itself 3 times).

Spray a pie plate with some PAM. Put the loaf in the pan and sprinkle with flour. Let rise 2 hours.

Right before putting in the oven sprinkle some vegetable oil over the loaf. That will help it crisp on the outside. When you put your loaf in the oven, have a pan with some cold water beside your  loaf in the oven. The steam from the cold water gives it a brown crispy outside and soft inside.

Cook at 500 deg. for 10 min
              450 for 10 min.
              350 for 10 min.

I was first introduced to this recipe by my roommate Ying a couple years ago. Here's how she found it:

Yes! A YouTube video! Watch this if my directions are unclear. There is one difference- He uses 2 tsp. of salt and I use 1 tsp. I felt it was a bit too salty and reducing it made the taste much better.

What kind of bread recipes do you like?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Meal of the Week- Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Sweet Potato Fries

Lest you think I'm a junk-food junkie, I will post something that is more along the lines of what we usually eat. I ripped a recipe out of the Better Homes and Gardens magazine when  I saw the words "Perfect Pulled Pork." A couple months ago, ShopRite had a great deal/coupon for a free pork shoulder. Free meat? Yes please. We picked out the largest pork shoulder we could find and then picked a recipe from the internet that had great feedback. How did it turn out? Awful. That's why when I saw this I eagerly awaited an opportunity to try this. I didn't have to wait to long and once again there was a sale. (This time it was .49 cents a pound...not too bad.) We made this recipe and it was excellent. And best of all??? Easy. So here is the meal of the week:

Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Sweet Potato Fries

5 lbs. boneless pork butt shoulder (I actually did it with a 3 lb. and used the same measurements for spices)
1 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. garlic powder (I used 3 cloves chopped garlic)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup water

Combine all seasonings in a small bowl and rub evenly over roast. Place meat in a 6-quart slow cooker. Add water. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 4-5 hours or until pork is very tender.

Place pork on large cutting board or platter and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Pull, slice or chop to serve. Serve in buns.

Sweet potatoes

I don't really have a recipe that I follow for these. Just peel and cut sweet potatoes into fry-size pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and dust with black pepper.
Put in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes.
They should be crispy on the outside and the smaller fries should be brown.

Chicken Soup for the.....sick person

So for the past few days (OK, over a week) I've had this weird and also annoying sore throat/cough/muscle weakness. I stayed home a couple days from work, which helped some, but I still have this nagging cough. Anyway, this is not what the post is really about. It's really about the very sweet effort my husband put into making me better. He brought tissues, water, snacks, teas, and every comfort you could think of to my bedside. He even knew I wanted to watch Ratatouille and brought that to me too. (yes, I watch that every time I'm sick. It brings back my appetite. Oh, plus the Linguine character is awkwardly endearing.) He was so concerned about my hacking cough and helpless state that I tried stifling a couple coughs to ease his pained looks, but after a couple tries decided it only made my coughing worse. After a day of drinking a reservoir of water and crunching on crackers and corn flakes, my empty stomach cried for soup.
Here's what he came up with:

1 package of chicken ramen
1 egg
3 shakes of red pepper flakes

Cook ramen like you did in college (or follow the directions on the back). During the last minute of cooking the noodles, whisk in the egg. Add the pepper flakes. That. Simple.

It was awesome. Maybe the fact that I hadn't eaten anything all day with any flavor made it better, but it was awesome.  We have actually made it again since I have been sick and it still is 100% delicious. The egg gives the soup more hearty-ness and the red pepper flakes makes all your congestion clear up quickly. This soup is delicious and if you're running late or need a quick meal this soup is faster than boiling some pasta and adding sauce. (and much tastier, may I add)

Yes, I know ramen has 1 billion mg of sodium and 14 grams of fat. But it's super tasty, super fast, and super cheap. Plus, if you eat it with some crusty homemade bread you can't go wrong.

Don't judge. Give it a try to save some money and buy a Jamba Juice. That will totally even everything out. ;)