juthwara: (Cooking)
I recently discovered the most wonderfully easy dinner - chicken gyros. I know the word "gyros" conjures up the image of specialized equipment and meat on a spit, but the magic of chicken is that you don't need any of that.

Ingredients:
Boneless chicken in an amount suitable to feed the number of people you want to feed
ditto flatbread
cucumber
tomatoes
onion
tzatziki sauce
feta cheese

Throw a couple pounds of boneless chicken in the crockpot with some olive oil and greek seasoning (the seasoning I use is McCormick Greek Seasoning, which I bought in the grocery store. If you can't find anything like that, there are about twelve million recipes for greek seasoning mixes available for the Googling). Cook on high for two hours or low for four hours. Cut the chicken into slices.

Warm up some flatbread or pita to make it more flexible by putting in it a hot skillet for a couple minutes or wrapping it in a damp paper towel and microwaving it for a minute or so. I've taken to using our Foreman grill, which lets me do several at once. Cut up some tomatoes and cucumbers into slices and finely slice some onion. Crumble of some feta cheese if you're of a mind to. Put some tzatziki sauce (Trader Joes makes an excellent tzatziki, but I've seen it in most supermarkets. And ooh, Trader Joes Greek Yogurt dip is fantastic on this too) on the flatbread, pile on the chicken, vegetables and cheese and eat, reveling in the knowledge that you've provided a hot meal with about five minutes of prep time. I've served this three times in the past three weeks and so far nobody has started pelting me with pitas when I announce we're having it yet again.


****

Exercise: 20 minutes on exercise bike - I was sick today, so I feel pretty damn heroic doing that much
juthwara: (Default)
The Duchess Bakes a Cake is the story of a medieval duchess who gets bored one day and decides to make a cake. She adds some yeast, and then adds some more yeast, and then more for good measure. The results are about what you would expect for a children's storybook, which is to say it completely ignores the fact that all the yeast in the world can only make a finite amount of dough stretch so far and the resulting cake carried the duchess far above the castle.

With a story like that, you obviously would have to spend time talking about baking and the role of leaveners. We started with yeast. I showed K a couple Good Eats episodes featuring yeast, because if there's a better way explain how yeast works than with belching sock puppets, I haven't seen it. After that, we moved onto the hands-on portion of the lesson. First, we tried setting out two mixtures of warm water and yeast, one with sugar and one without. Within fifteen minutes, it was clear that sugar is necessary to fuel the yeast, since the mixture with sugar was bubbling merrily away and the plain water mixture was sitting there tepidly. I had K look at the yeast foam and see the bubbles in it.

To further cement the idea that yeast gives off gas (and because it was really cool), we took a two-liter soda bottle, put warm water, yeast and sugar in it and then stretched a balloon over the top. Within half an hour, the balloon had popped up and was clearly inflated on top of the bottle. We could see the yeast foaming away at the bottom as well. We went out for several hours after that and when we came home, the balloon had gotten quite a bit larger and the yeast was clearly still working away, which really impressed me. Even though I've baked more than enough bread to know that yeast keeps working for hours and even days, it's still hard to carry that over to realize that the yeast really is a living organism that keeps eating and producing as long as it has food, even when it's not hidden in bread.

The final experiment of the day was to talk about other leaveners, specifically baking soda. Since baking soda is much more commonly used in making cakes in modern times, I wanted to show K how it worked. I suppose it wasn't so much an experiment as a demonstration: I put baking soda in the bottom of a glass and poured vinegar over it, and as everyone who ever made a baking sode volcano knows, it bubbled up quite impressively. To learn a bit more about making cakes and baking soda, we read The Magic School Bus Gets Baked in a Cake and watched an episode of the Magic School Bus tv show that covered pretty much the same story.

Then, of course, we had to bake a cake. At that point, we were done with science for the day since there was no recapturing K's interest when there was a cake to be decorated.

This week, I decided that right before Christmas is not the time to try to get a six-year-old to concentrate on school, so we're putting off the rest of Duchess until after we get back from Michigan. There's more than enough of the Middle Ages to fill a full week, and it will give me a chance to get some books that I had wanted but didn't have time to get through interlibrary loan. We will be doing A New Coat for Anna next week because K's grandmother will be visiting with her spinning wheel, and that's far too good an opportunity to give hands-on experience with fiber production from fleece to yarn to pass up. I don't think we'll have any trouble getting K to pay attention to the process of dyeing wool or spinning it, even with new Christmas presents to distract her.

Books used today:
The Duchess Bakes a Cake by Virginia Kahl
The Magic School Bus Gets Baked in a Cake by Joanna Cole
juthwara: (Default)
I attempted new frontiers in synergistic cooking multi-tasking last night. It started with my finally figuring out the secret of getting bread to rise well. Regular kneaded, no-knead, it's never managed to make a difference in my producing bread only slightly more elevated than matzoh. Most of the problem lies in the fact that between my miserly heat conservation in the winter and intolerance of high heat in the summer, our house is usually 65 during the winter and never more than 78 in the summer, causing the poor yeasties to move with a reptile-like torpor. I know you can use the oven to help dough rise, but somehow I never have any luck getting it to stay the right temperature. I'm given to understand that if you have a good oven, little things like a temperature goes up to where you set it and stays there is something you can count on. But I don't have one of those creatures. I have an oven that behaves with the delightful predictability and reliability of a two-year-old who has just eaten a package of pixie sticks. One day when my ship comes in, I'm going to get an oven with a proof setting, and I will be very happy indeed.

But I finally found the right dough-raising device - the crockpot. I turn it on low, balance the bowl on top and the dough pops up happily. I've been using a no-knead recipe here, using a cast-iron pot acquired cheaply from Target. And last night, as I looked at the bowl of dough over the empty crockpot, I decided that I might as well use the heat to try out the crockpot yogurt recipe here.

The bread came out of the oven and was absolutely beautiful. I made took a bullet for everyone by taste-testing the first oven-warm piece with butter melting over it (the terrible sacrifices I make for my family!), and it's delicious.

This morning, the yogurt was huddled, shivering, sullen and still entirely liquid, at the bottom of the pot. So I turned it on to "Warm" for a couple hours and it firmed up very nicely. When adding the starter, I also added a bunch (1/2 cup?) of agave syrup and a couple tablespoons of vanilla extract, which made for a lovely, mild final product. It will blend very well with fruit, but is tasty enough to eat on its own. Hopefully I'll be able to get myself to do this more often, so we don't have to buy quite so many individual yogurts for our children who would eat their weight in it if I would let them (and in addition to being cheaper, it would alleviate a small point of environmental guilt for me).
juthwara: (Cooking)
1 cup multigrain baking mix
1/2 tsp baking powder (or 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour + 1 1/2 tsp baking powder)
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1/4 cup dry milk powder
1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 large eggs
4 T butter, melted
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 T vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries (or 1 large apple, chopped finely or grated and 1 tsp cinnamon for apple cinnamon muffins)

Preheat over to 350

Mix flour, baking powder, milk powder, whey protein powder and flaxseed meal in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together agave nectar, eggs, butter, ricotta and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix together. Stir in blueberries. Spoon batter into muffin tin and bake in 350 degree over for 20-25 minutes (check often since flax meal likes to brown quickly).

So far, these seem to be great muffins if you need to watch your blood sugar. Flaxseed meal is essentially all fiber, and can be used to replace quite a lot of flour in a recipe. The milk, protein powder, eggs and ricotta combine together for a nice amount of protein to keep blood sugar in check. Agave nectar is some sort of unholy concoction that has freakishly little affect on the blood sugar. And I can't think of a better use for the lovely fresh blueberries I picked up the other day (except perhaps for shoveling them into my mouth like a bear coming out of hibernation). In total, a large muffin has 15 grams of carbohydrate, 2.5 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein. Not bad at all for a baked good.

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juthwara

May 2015

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