Sunday, October 16, 2016


We went camping at Palomar Mountain few weeks ago.  I kept the menu fairly simple since we were only camping for one night.

On the way up to Palomar Mountain, we stopped at Pink's Hot Dogs located inside Harrah's Casino. We walked around looking for Pink's. The casino is huge and appears to be quite the weekend destination. We looked a little out of place in the fancy resort/casino. I walked up to ask where Pink's was located and ran into a friend.  He pointed us in the right direction.  (He actually was surprised that we came all the way to Harrah's for hot dogs.)  I ordered a turkey dog and onion rings. We ordered way too much food.

We checked in at the park entrance. The woman working was less than thrilled to be working.

Since we were a little early, we stopped off at the pond and the urgent care.  Someone found a lure in his hand.  The closest urgent care was about 45 minutes from the campgrounds but I refused to go with Plan A. Lets just say Plan A involved pliers and a wire cutter. The park ranger also refused to have anything to do with Plan A. We ended up at Graybill Urgent Care. The folks at Graybill were great.

The pond was small but it was really pretty.

I sat at the edge of the pond and tried to soak in all the nature around me. A little kid walked by and said, "look daddy! He caught a log!" 

After a quick stop at the urgent care, we made it back before the park closed and pitched a small tent. The tent is not that small. It is a lot smaller than the two-room tent we had in Colorado. This tent is large enough for a single high queen air mattress with a little room to spare.  For this weekend, I wanted less fuss so I was fine with a smaller tent. It would have been nice to sleep a little higher off the ground and be able to stand up to change inside the tent.

I kept dinner pretty simple with shrimp fajitas. I sliced the bell peppers and onions ahead of time. We have a few camp stoves and grills.  I decided to leave the grills and larger stove at home and packed a smaller two-burner camp stove. I heated a 10-inch fry pan on the stove, added a little olive oil and added the onions. Once the onions started browning, I added the bell peppers and cooked a few minutes longer. I finished the onions and peppers with a little salt and black pepper.

I almost bought a cheap pan for camping but decided to just pack one of my All-Clad pans instead.

I peeled, deveined, and froze the shrimp a few weeks before our camping trip. They were still pretty frozen when I took them out of the cooler that evening. I was afraid they would defrost and be unsafe to eat so I put a pack of frozen Nathan's hot dogs in the cooler just in case. We didn't have to resort to Plan B for dinner.

I sautéed the shrimp in a little olive oil and seasoned them with a salt, pepper, chile powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, dried onions, cumin, Mexican oregano, and lime juice. I made the seasoning mix a few days before the trip.

Shrimp is great for camping because it cooks up so quickly. I had dinner ready in about 15 minutes. I used 26/30 size shrimp. 26/30 is my favorite size for most dishes. I bought several bags of U15 and they are still in the freezer because they're a little larger than I like.

Dessert included cinnamon crescent rolls and s'mores cooked over the campfire. I wasn't very hungry so I didn't eat either.  I didn't even finish my fajitas.

By the time the cinnamon crescent rolls and s'mores were finished, it was pretty dark out. The days have been shorter and with the unplanned urgent care trip, we didn't start cooking until a little later.

It was a long day so we didn't end up playing any games we packed. We tested out the air mattress, tandem sleeping bag, and down blanket and fell asleep with the lights on. These solar string lights from Amazon were pretty awesome. I thought they would run out of battery and turn off but after several hours, I had a search for the off button.

In the morning I got up and made breakfast. I cooked up some maple bacon in a large rectangular cast iron dutch oven.  I cooked diced potatoes in the bacon grease until crispy then added onions, bell peppers, and eggs. I ate mine without tortillas.  The hubby made a breakfast burrito and doused everything with Tapatio sauce. 

I made coffee using a Moka Pot and drank it out of a "vintage" Starbucks paper cup.

We sat by the fire for a few hours before tearing down camp and heading back to civilization. It was nice to get away from the city even if it was only for a day.

We stopped on the side of the road on our way down. It's not quite Colorado but still very beautiful.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Pain de Mie or Pullman Loaf

The recipe for this pain de mie is from the King Arthur flour website.  I made it a few times before when I lived in Denver. I had to adjust the recipe a bit to get the recipe to work at altitude.  It oozed out of the lip of the pan, right under the cover, onto the oven.  I’m now at sea level so this time around I made it as written.  The amount of dough is perfect for a 13”x4”x4” (1.5 pound) pullman pan.  
The recipe does include items that are not commonly stocked in most kitchen pantries. When I made this before, I had a difficult time finding potato flour so I used mashed potato flakes as a substitute. It turned out fine. This time I searched my pantry and found some potato flour.  I must have grabbed it because I made a mental note that I needed it. I don’t use powdered milk all that often but I purchased some for another recipe. I did not use King Arthur flour for this recipe. I usually buy the King Arthur bread, white whole wheat, and cake flours but for all purpose I usually buy the unbleached Gold Medal or Trader Joe’s brands. This loaf was made with Trader Joe’s all purpose flour. 

When I first started experimenting with yeast, I bought the Red Start and Fleischmann's brands but after reading Bread Baker's Apprentice, I started using instant yeast. I now use SAF instant yeast (the red bag) almost exclusively. There was a time when I used both the regular SAF and the SAF Gold but I found the Gold made a negligible difference for sweet dough so most of the time I only have the regular SAF in my freezer. 
I used to knead dough in a Kitchenaid mixer but I found that I get better results using the dough cycle of a bread machine.  I have an older model Zojirushi Bakery Supreme BBCCX20 that I feel does a terrible job of baking but does an excellent job of kneading and proofing dough. The recipe includes mixer, bread machine, and hand methods.  I’m sure you can even knead the dough in a food processor. 
When I was looking to buy a Pullman pan, the only brand I found was the USA brand.  It has a clear coating that I didn’t originally want but now love. Today I forgot to grease the pan and the loaf slid right out after baking. I was a little nervous but I decided to go ahead and bake it rather than scoop out the dough and disrupt the rise.  
Pain de Mie or Pullman Loaf
Makes 1 13”x4”x4” loaf
2/3 cup (5 3/8 ounces) milk
1 cup (8 ounces) water
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup (1 1/8 ounces) Baker's Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) potato flour
4 3/4 cups (20 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Bread Machine Method: Place all of the ingredients into the pan of your machine, program the machine for Manual or Dough, and press Start. When the cycle is finished, remove the dough and proceed as follows.

Manual Method: In a large bowl, combine the milk, water, butter, salt and sugar. Add the dried milk, flours and yeast, stirring till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 5 to 8 minutes, or until it's smooth and supple. Because of the relatively high fat content of this dough, it's a real pleasure to work with. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise till puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Mixer Method: Combine the ingredients as above, using a flat beater paddle or beaters, then switch to the dough hook(s) and knead for 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise till doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.

Lightly grease a 13 x 4-inch pain de mie pan. Transfer the risen dough to a lightly greased work surface, shape it into a 13-inch log, and fit it into the pan. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise until it's just below the lip of the pan, 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the warmth of your kitchen (it may rise even more slowly in a cool kitchen; don't worry, this long rise will give it great flavor).

Remove the plastic, and carefully place the cover on the pan, let it rest an additional 10 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350°F. Bake the bread for 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, carefully remove the lid, and return the bread to the oven to bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until it tests done; an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will register 190°F. Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely. 

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Women's Bean Project Chili and Cornbread Mix

Many people assume that everything I cook is from scratch and are often embarrassed to admit to me that they use mixes. Just because I'm crazy enough to make my own soy sauce does not mean I don't have a bottle of Kikkoman in my house.

I love Women's Bean Project mixes.  The cornbread mix is my favorite. I keep several in my pantry for times when I'm too busy (lazy) to make my own cornbread. I know cornbread from scratch is not very difficult and requires just a few additional steps. But there are times I just need to turn off my brain. Just the other day I was making brownies and I doubled the recipe in my head. When the brownies finished baking I thought something was off.  I read over the recipe and instantly I realized I forgot to double the butter! I just wasted a cup and a half of my coveted high fat dutch process cocoa powder.

Just before the holidays I placed an order to replenish my WBP stash.  

The first time I tried WBP mixes was at a Bean Party hosted by a friend (who is a former board member of the WBP). I fell in love with the cornbread. It is seriously the best cornbread mix ever. I love it so much I buy it to give to people because I want to spread the yumminess

Today I made the cornbread to go with their old fashion mild chili. WBP also has a firehouse #10 hot chili mix but the mild was spicy enough for me.  I usually add diced jalapenos and shredded cheddar cheese. I realized I forgot the cheese as the cornbread was baking in the oven.

I soaked the beans overnight and cooked in them in a crock pot while I was at work.  When I got home, I browned a pound of ground turkey and sauteed some onions, garlic, and bell pepper.  I added two cans of Rotel (10 oz each) and one small (8 oz) container of tomato sauce instead of one large (28 oz) of diced tomatoes.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Kellie's Chicken Khao Pune (Laotian Curry Noodles)

I was craving some Laotian Khao Pune (curry noodles) so I texted my friend Kellie to see if she could send me her “recipe.” She texted me back and said she will email it later. The recipe below is pretty much Kellie’s version.

I use a whole chicken because it’s what Kellie uses. I think it makes a more flavorful broth. Some people simply use boneless breasts and augment with chicken broth or bouillon but I think the flavor payoff is well worth the extra step of having to deal with bones. Chicken feet and chicken wings are also great for making yummy broth. (Chicken feet is my secret ingredient for making the perfect matzo ball soup broth.)

Kellie's Chicken Khao Pune (Laotian Curry Noodles)

Ingredients for Sauce:
1 whole chicken
1 pound chicken feet (optional)
1 stalk lemon grass
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 knob dried galanga root
water to cover
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 shallot, finely diced
1 13.5 ounce can Chaokoh coconut milk
1 4 ounce can Maesri brand Namya Noodle Curry Paste
2 tablespoons red curry paste (or use about ¼ cup red curry and exclude the namya curry paste)
MSG, to taste
Fish sauce, to taste
1 disk palm sugar (or about 2 tablespoons regular sugar)

Ingredients for Serving:
Rice vermicelli noodles, boiled
Cabbage, shredded
Bean sprouts
Banana blossom, sliced (optional)
Long beans, finely sliced
Cilantro, chopped
Green onions, sliced

1. Cut up a whole chicken into pieces and add to a large stockpot. Add chicken feet (if using), lemon grass, lime leaves, and galanga root to stockpot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer until chicken is cooked. Remove chicken pieces and allow to cool. Continue to simmer broth.
2. When chicken is cool enough to handle, separate out the chicken meat, discarding skin and bones. Pound chicken meat with a mortar and pestle until chicken is shredded. (I think you can use a potato masher is you do not own a mortar and pestle. The goal is a finely shredded/mashed chicken without getting it too pasty.) Set mashed chicken aside.
3. In a medium saucepan, sauté shallots in some oil. Add curry pastes and sauté a few minutes until fragrant. Add coconut milk and sauté a few minutes longer. (Kellie doesn’t think that this step is necessary but I went ahead and followed it since it’s the way Kellie’s mom taught her to make the sauce.)
4. Add the curry coconut milk to the simmering broth. Add the reserved mashed chicken, MSG, fish sauce, and palm sugar. Return to a simmer until sugar is melted.

Maesri brand namya sauce, coconut milk, an assortment of rice vermicelli noodles and banana blossom.

To Serve:
1. Boil the rice vermicelli. Soak the noodles in cold water and create little bundles of noodles by grabbing a handful and laying it down on a colander. (This makes it easier for everyone to grab a bundle or two when assembling their bowls so make small serving size bundles.)
2. Layer the noodles and the various topping in a large “pho” bowl and ladle boiling sauce on top. Enjoy.

Plate of vegetable toppings:

Layer noodles and vegetable toppings in a large "pho" bowl.

Ladle hot sauce over noodles.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Blueberry Muffins

I've spent the past several weeks testing out muffin recipes.  The Everything Muffin recipe is not quite there yet but the blueberry muffin testing is done.

Blueberry Muffins
yield: 12 muffins

1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
 coarse sparkling sugar

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line or spray 12 regular muffin tins.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. Add cubed butter and mix until sandy.  Add oil and continue mixing until incorporated.
4. Combine buttermilk and vanilla and add to the flour mixture.  Beat until smooth.
5. Add egg, one at a time. Beat until smooth.
6. Using a rubber spatula, fold in blueberries and lemon zest.
7. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin tins.  (The tins should be pretty full.)  Sprinkle with coarse sparkling sugar.  Bake 17 to 20 minutes. Let muffins cool in tins for 5 minutes then transfer to wire rack.

***If using fresh blueberries, reserve 2 tablespoons of flour and lightly toss the berries with the reserved flour before adding to batter.

I don't always have buttermilk on hand so I tested the recipe using regular milk instead of buttermilk and felt it was so much better with the buttermilk.  I use buttermilk in a handful of recipes but always end up buying a full quart.  I freeze leftover buttermilk in 1/4 cup cubes.  Frozen buttermilk does separate when thawed but I find it works perfectly fine in cake, pancakes, and muffins.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Golden Vanilla Cake

It's been a long while since I last posted.  During my absence, I moved from the Mile High City to America's Finest City (aka my hometown).  I look forward to baking without having to adjust for altitude. Today I'm testing out a yellow cake recipe.

I've been searching for the perfect homemade yellow cake and have tried several recipes over the last few years. I've been disappointed each time.  My last attempt went into the trash.  I'm not looking for a fluffy boxed cake mix cake.  Cakes from mixes are too gummy in texture and artificial tasting for me.

I'm looking for a dense cake but I don't want dry or crumbly and many of the recipes I've tried resulted in a dense, dry, and crumbly.  I want dense but also moist with a fine crumb.  It is the texture found in many bakery cakes.

Bakeries use the high ratio method that utilize special high ratio flours and shortening. The problem with high ratio cakes are they tend to be too sweet and lack flavor.  This is because high ratio cakes are made with a lot of sugar and a special high ratio shortening containing emulsifiers. To top it all off, they are then frosted with shortening "butter"cream. So is there a way to get the results of a high ratio cake without using special flours and shortening? 

I came across this recipe on the King Arthur website.  I think I looked at this recipe a while back but decided to not make it because of the many negative reviews.  But after reading through the several pages of reviews, I found that people were either very happy or very disappointed by the results.  I decided to give it a try.  I've had a lot of luck with King Arthur recipes. 

This recipe from King Arthur utilizes the reverse creaming method used in high ratio cakes but subs butter for the high ratio shortening.  The result is a very flavorful butter cake with a very fine crumb.  The cake is still pretty sweet so I frosted it with a not too sweet chocolate cream cheese frosting.  The only reason I frost cakes is because everyone expects them to be frosted. I don't like frosting and find it a waste of calories.  I would rather eat a larger piece of cake than eat the frosting. 

I love the texture and flavor of this cake but it is very sweet and the texture while very good, reminded me of pound cake.  I think I will have to tinker with it a bit.  Perhaps make it with cake flour instead of all purpose and decrease some of the sugar. 

The recipe can be found on the King Arthur website:

The recipe makes:

One 9x13 pan
Two 9" rounds
Three 8" rounds
Twenty four cupcakes

Golden Vanilla Cake

2 cups sugar, preferable baker's sugar (which is a finer than regular granulated sugar)
3 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 large eggs

1. Bring butter, milk, and eggs to room temperature.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line pans with parchment paper.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, measure out sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.  Using the paddle attachment, mix until combined.

4. Add the butter and mix on low until mixture looks sandy.  (It should look like bisquick or cake mix.)

5.  Combine the milk and vanilla and add to flour mixture.  Mix on low speed 30 seconds and increase to medium and mix another 30 seconds.

6. Add egg one at a time mixing on medium for 30 seconds after each addition.

7. After the last egg, scrape down bowl and mix another 30 seconds.

8. Transfer batter into baking pans.  Drop pans on counter a few times to release air bubbles.  Bake until golden and toothpick inserted comes out clean.  (I didn't read the instructions carefully and baked the batter in two 8" pans instead of three.)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pad See Ew -- Thai Soy Sauce Noodles

I usually order drunken noodles at Thai restaurants but every once in a while I will crave a good pad see ew.  Pad see ew is no nonsense noodle goodness. While pad thai and pad kee mao (drunken noodles) are more complex in flavor, pad see ew is simple.  The key ingredient is the dark sweet soy sauce. 

I must have about 15 different soy sauces in my pantry.  I believe every bottle serves a different purpose.  For this recipe, I bought a different brand of sweet soy sauce to try out.  I've been using the Healthy Boy brand but wanted to try the Dragonfly brand.  I remember seeing a bottle of this stuff in mom's pantry. I give it a thumbs up.

In San Diego, fresh rice noodles can be found in almost all Asian grocery stores.  The noodle factories deliver warm noodles daily.  In Denver, we get the noodles from California and instead of warm and soft, they are refrigerated and hard. Refrigerated noodles do not stand up well when fried but the only other option is making your own noodles.  My aunts are expert noodle makers.  They helped my grandmother run a noodle soup stand when they were teenagers. They still make noodles from time to time.  I should attempt making fresh noodles one day.

My mom doesn't like factory made noodles.  She says the oil used to coat the noodles cycles through the machine continuously.  She prefers to buy the dried noodles and soak the noodles in warmish-hot water.  I used refrigerated fresh noodles and blanched them in boiling water.  The noodles do fall apart a bit but I think they are still pretty yummy.

Pad See Ew
adapted from Serious Eats
yield: one generous serving 

For the meat:
4 ounces chicken breast, pork, or beef; thinly sliced
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce (sometimes called white soy sauce)

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 clove garlic; minced

For the stir fry:
4 tablespoons oil
1 large egg
8 ounces fresh wide flat rice noodles; separated or noodle sheets; separated and cut
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
3 stalks gai lan (Chinese broccoli)
2 ounces fried tofu

1. Marinate meat with baking soda and thin soy sauce.  Set aside.
2. Combine ingredients for the sauce.  Set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place noodles in a strainer and dip noodles into boiling water for a few seconds until soft.  Set aside.  Place chicken in strainer and dip in boiling water until cooked.  Set aside.
4. Heat a wok on high.  Add oil and when oil starts to smoke, add egg.  Allow eggs to set then scramble.  When eggs are cooked, add noodles.  Stir noodles to coat with oil and then allow to cook a minute.  Drizzle in 2 tablespoons of sweet soy sauce.  Toss well.  Cook until slightly charred.
5.  Add gai lan, meat, and tofu.  Toss until all ingredients are heated through.  Add the sauce mixture.  Stir fry a few more minutes.
6. Serve immediately.

To substitute dried noodles: Soak noodles in warm/hot water for about 30 minutes and drain.  Skip the blanching in hot water.

The sauces (from left to right): rice vinegar (either mizkan or marukan brand), Mae Krua brand oyster sauce, Healthy Boy thin soy sauce, Kwong Hung Seng or Dragonfly brand sweet soy sauce (blue cap), and Healthy Boy sweet soy sauce.  Behind the Healthy Boy sweet soy is a bottle of Healthy Boy dark soy sauce.  I used Kwong Hung Seng for the sweet soy but some people prefer Healthy Boy sweet or dark soy.
gai lan, noodles, eggs, marinated meat, sauce mixture, fried tofu.
Add egg to hot oil

Scramble the eggs

Add the noodles

Add sweet soy sauce

Add gai lan

Add meat, tofu, and sauce mixture

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