Monday, October 8, 2012

Stress Baking

When I am worried, stressed, bored or avoiding dusting bookshelves, I drag Mildred out of her hiding place and think up things to bake.  I discovered that I do indeed have a dough hook attachment for her (my favorite chef was going to get one for me- he is the one I bartered with in order to have Mildred- I cleaned for him--  it is more interesting to clean for others, particularly when a KitchenAid mixer is waiting at the end).  And I was itching to put it to the test.  I love to make bread, I just don't do it very often anymore.  I have a Cuisinart bread-making machine that some students gave me a few years back.  It does all the work, from mixing to rising to baking.  It lives down in the same cupboard as Mildred.  I think they are BFFs.
I found a gluten-free cinnamon raisin bread mix at Harris Teeter or Target.  Not sure which one.  The Ex-Ex and I don't seem to have issues with gluten, but I am always on the look-out for new things to try.  I got used to corn pasta when living in France because Chef Érick has gluten issues.  I really like the stuff.  Anyway, back to the bread.

It was easy to make, baked up well and was done in a couple of hours from start to finish.  It only needed to rise one time.  It is chilly in NC right now and kind of chilly in the house, so I used a Cook's Illustrated tip and put a pan of boiling water in the oven to help with the rising.  (I love this magazine and read it cover to cover every time it arrives in my mailbox.  What's not to love about someone else doing all the work?  They test their recipes a million times before printing and you can read all about their trials and errors.)  The Ex-Ex and I had a couple of slices warm from the oven for our Sunday breakfast.  Wait until completely cooled to slice- ha!  That part of the directions never works out for me.  Who really waits?
The stress part comes in simply because I have children.  One of them, Son #2, is moving into an apartment before coming home for fall break and I am not there to help.  He can handle it.  I am confident of that, but, well, I am a mom.  Therefore I worry.  Instead of I think therefore I am- Je pense donc je suis (thanks to M. René Descartes 1596-1650), I am Mom therefore I worry.
I also decided to make brownies.  Not just any brownies.  Nutella brownies.  The three half-eaten jars in my cupboard call (actually they scream) out my name every time I walk past them.  I love that stuff.  Just a spoonful of it will usually do the trick, but I needed to bake.  I used a recipe from a past blog that involved melting chocolate as well as using Nutella and cocoa powder. Triple chocolate threat.  I still have some of my Nestle dessert Noir bars from my summer trip to France and Monoprix.  (Merci, Mme P, for turning me on to this stuff!)  I have another recipe that I like, too, but I suppose my soul needed the triple chocolate fix.  (Maybe I will make the other recipe today and take it to my advisees at school tomorrow.  Good excuse, right?)
Mildred wasn't needed for this recipe, just a whisk, a pot, a spatula and a couple of measuring cups.

Since man can't live by chocolate and bread alone (a woman could, though), I made "real" food, too.  We've had a little dip in the temperatures here in the piedmont section of NC (it means at the foot - pied- of the mountains- mont- I say it with the French pronunciation to mess with people sometimes, kind of like my always ready pardon), therefore soup was on the menu for the weekend.  I made two different ones.  The great thing about soup is that there is no right or wrong.  You can throw in whatever you like in whatever quantity you want.  Spice it up, mix it up, use up stuff in the cupboard or refrigerator that you don't know what else to do with.  Sorry, that last part doesn't sound too appetizing, does it?  Pardon.

Soup #One

Andouille sausage cut into bite-sized pieces and sautéed in a pan (I've also grilled it in the past)
Onion, chopped and sautéed after sausage is done
Celery, chopped and sautéed with the onion
Black beans
Rotelle tomatoes with chilis (I use a small can because the people I live with aren't too fond of warm tomatoes)
Vegetable stock

Put it all in a pot and warm it up.  Simmer for about 15 minutes or so to allow the flavors to mix.
Serve with brown rice.

Soup #Two

Ground beef,  1 pound, browned and drained
Onion, chopped and sautéed with the ground beef
Taco-seasoning, one envelope (or more to taste)
One 15-oz can each:
Black beans
Red kidney beans
Great Northern beans
Whole kernel corn
Rotelle tomatoes with chilis
Vegetable stock and/or water

Brown the ground beef and sauté the onion.  Add the taco seasoning and mix well.  Add in some vegetable stock or water, let simmer for a couple of minutes.  Add in the drained, rinsed beans (any combination- I've used cannellini and black-eyed peas also) and corn (drain if using canned, just add in if using frozen), and tomatoes with their juice.  Add enough water or vegetable stock to make the soup the consistency you like.

Both soups are good served with either rice or pasta (elbows work well).  I love the combination of brown rice and beans.

Cornbread muffins or even just saltines and you have a very easy, very quick, very yummy dinner.

Bon appétit to all moms!  Worry less, bake more.  A good motto, n'est-ce pas?

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