homemade pita

The last time I bought some pita, my husband told me we should have this more often. I wondered how hard it could be to make pita myself. Today I tried it and was pleased with the results. In fact we ended up starting our lunch shortly after 11, when the hot pockets were pulled out of the oven.

I found the recipe at The Fresh Loaf and made it with one cup whole wheat and two cups white flour. I baked them at 425 degrees for four to five minutes per batch (a little hotter and longer than the recipe stated). It seemed that a minute or so between batches to allow the oven and stone to heat back up made for better puffing during baking.

jambalaya

I learned how to make jambalaya from an aunt probably about a year ago. One thing I like about it: you can easily substitute different meat and vegetables. The general guideline is two protein sources. Try chicken, ham or ground turkey if you haven’t got the ones I’ve mentioned below.
We had jambalaya today for dinner and I wondered why I don’t make it more often.

Here’s this evening’s version.

1 pound bulk sausage
1/2 pound frozen cooked shrimp
1 1/2 cups uncooked long grain rice
1 onion chopped
2 stalks of celery chopped
1/2 green pepper chopped
2-3 cloves garlic diced finely
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
8 oz can tomato sauce
about 1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon dry ground mustard
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more)
black pepper and salt to taste

Fry the sausage with the onion, celery, garlic, and green pepper. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, water and spices. Simmer until vegetables are tender. In a separate saucepan, cook the rice according to package directions. When the sauce is done, add the frozen shrimp to the sauce, bring to a boil and then simmer for about five minutes. Stir in the cooked rice and enjoy.

no-crust apple pie

The only thing I don’t like about this recipe is the title. It sounds too “slacker,” which is about the worst label I can imagine getting tagged with.

Since we had a lot of apples patiently waiting to be used up, I pulled out the old church cookbook yesterday evening and made a no-crust apple pie for my husband to take to work. It was a hit, he said.

Here’s how to make this tasty fall dessert.

Place 3 cups of sliced apples in a 9-inch pie pan. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Mix together the following:
3/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

Pour batter over apples and bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes.

Rhubarb pie

We got some rhubarb yesterday at Dad’s. And it was time to make a pie, I decided this morning. I was thinking about the time Uncle Harold hired me to make two rhubarb pies. I was a teenager who had relatively little pie making experience, and I am not certain the crust was as light and flaky as a pie’s should be, but he and Aunt Betty happily took the warm pies with them when they dropped my little brothers off. (I don’t remember where they’d gone, though.)

Today I ventured away from my usual recipe from the old Betty Crocker in favor of one that called for almond extract. It was a good choice.

Oh, and when making the crust, I’ve found it helps to chill the shortening first. Then it takes less time to chill the dough before rolling it out.

The rhubarb I used was rather tart, so a bit more sugar wouldn’t have hurt. But after the fact, what can one do? Serve the pie with ice cream!

Mix together 1 1/2 cups sugar, 4 cups chopped rhubarb, 3 heaping tablespoons flour, a dash of salt, 1 teaspoon almond extract, and 1 large egg (or 2 if you like it more custardy – I used just one.)

Pour this into a pastry-lined 9-inch pie plate, add the top crust, seal, and cut slits on the top to let the steam escape. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 35 minutes.

Cool somewhat and enjoy this Midwestern spring tradition.

Valentine’s cut out cookies

I’m from a family who mostly had little interest in cut out cookies. Such cookies rarely had anything to do with chocolate after all, which is a significant flaw according to my dad.

And as an adult, I’ve found cut out cookies usually rather lackluster and not worth the calories. Often too sugary. But, a few years ago I discovered an exceptional cut out cookie. Plenty of butter and cream make them quite rich and oh-so-flaky. They’re not too sweet; there’s not a drop of sugar in the cookie. So a little frosting on top is a welcome addition. In fact, without it, they seem a little too much like pie crust. But let me warn you: if you give these a try, you may never go back to regular old cut out cookies.

Butter cream cookies
1 cup butter
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 cups flour

Mix ingredients thoroughly and chill at least an hour. Roll dough to an eighth inch thick. Cut with small cookie cutters (2 inches or smaller) since dough is so rich and larger pieces would be hard to handle. Bake at 375 degrees for 7 to 9 minutes, or until slightly puffy. Decorate as desired with butter cream icing.

Squash

One thing I like about fall is the fresh produce. Since we don’t have a garden of our own, we rely on the farmer’s market and the farmers we’re related to. After a visit last Saturday, our kitchen is brimming with potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, apples, and tomatoes. (Thanks, Tim.) It has kept me busy.

Today I froze tomatoes, made five pints of apple jelly, and prepared the apples for five more pints, which I’ll make once I get some jars to put it in.

We’ve been eating squash at least once a day. I like it with just a bit of butter and salt, but it’s time for variety. So earlier in the week, I used some of the squash to make muffins, adapting a sweet bread recipe.

Squash muffins:
3/4 cup sugar
scant 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 heaping cup of baked squash
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon each baking soda and baking powder
dash of salt

Mix as you usually do for quick breads. Put batter into a muffin tin. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

What’s your favorite way to prepare squash?

Dip

Mom used to make bean dip. As near as I can remember, it was a can of red kidney beans, juice and all, in the blender. I think as kids we mostly used it as an excuse to eat tortilla chips. But there’s something about foods one used to eat as a kid that stick in a special place in your memory. So when I saw this recipe for bean dip, I thought I ought to give it a try for old time’s sake. The white beans and addition of cumin make it seem a bit more “grow up,” perhaps.

It’s a healthy veggie dip. Not quite as healthy with tortilla chips, but hey, there’s protein in there. I’m sure if I had any tortilla chips around, they’d have been brought out for the occasion. Anyway, here’s a recipe that’s easy and worth a try.

White Bean Dip
15.5 ounce can of white beans, drained
1 small clove garlic
2 T olive oil
2 t ground cumin
a dash or two of black pepper
2 T fresh lime (or lemon) juice

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add a bit more water if you wish to have a thinner dip. Chill for a few hours to let flavors blend. Serve garnished with paprika.

Bean Soup Moshawa

My sister Clair has made a New Year’s resolution to cook something new each month. That would not be much of a resolution for me. I think I may average at least one new recipe a month without any deliberate planning. I like variety. (In fact I have a quite a history of experimentation in the kitchen, which has included some flops that I will never be able to live down. The grape pie and the minestrone that “burned all the way down” probably top the list.)

My new recipe this month was Bean Soup Moshawa. It’s a tasty Afghani soup, great with naan or pita. A half pound of ground beef was in the original recipe, but I omitted it.

1 cup mung beans
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 medium onion
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 ½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
6 cups water
2 cups plain yogurt
½ cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons flour

Rinse mung beans, put in a saucepan with 3 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until soft. Drain.
Sauté onion in olive oil in a soup pot. Add tomato paste, beans, seasonings, and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and cornstarch, pour in the water and stir until it is a smooth paste. Stir in the yogurt. Add this to the soup and heat until hot but not boiling.
Enjoy.

Somali tea

Recently our pastor stopped by for a visit. Knowing how much of a coffee connoisseur he is, I was too intimidated to serve him coffee. I tend to mentally drop out of the conversation when people start using terms like cold press and French press, and I was certain I could not prepare a cup of coffee that would make the grade.

So we served tea. I call it “Somali tea,” though my husband is quick to point out that no tea grows in Somalia. What I mean is tea prepared with spices the way Somalis prepare it. But that’s too long to be a name for tea, not to mention a bit annoying in its precision.

Well, our pastor liked the tea. Liked it enough to have a second cup. Liked it enough to have his wife call me a week later to ask for the recipe. There is no recipe, really. I learned to make it from my husband who believes that using a recipe is kind of like cheating. In his view, a good cook has this intuitive sense about ingredients and does not need to write anything down. But I, having been taught to use standard measurements in the kitchen, have made this tea enough times to be able to share the approximate quantity of each ingredient.

Somalis are impressed that I know how to make it; Anglos generally like it. I have shared this recipe twice this week—thrice if you count this blog.

Here is how we make Somali tea in our home.

Put all of the following in a tea kettle (or sauce pan):
2 ½ cups of water
1 regular black tea bag (or the equivalent in loose black tea)
1/3 of a stick of cinnamon
3 whole cloves
4 green cardamom pods, crushed a bit
a slice of ginger root, if you have it on hand

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer seven to ten minutes. Add sugar and evaporated milk or cream to taste—it should look rather white. Reheat, strain, and serve immediately.