Pizza dough flatbread

I saw this easy recipe on The Today Show but since their website can be hard to search, I’m going to archive the recipe/method here. I’m going to certainly use the store-bought method at our next gathering. Maybe with the ranch spinach dip I just blogged about!

Flatbreads (if making from scratch)
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons evoo (extra-virgin olive oil)
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 2/3 cups warm water

If store-bought, cut into small balls and let rest at room temperature. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough out as thinly as possible (almost see-through). Sprinkle with fennel seeds and roll a few times to “secure” them. Cut into strips or triangles or leave whole. Lay onto oiled sheet trays and drizzle with more oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes until lightly browned and crunchy. Cool and serve.

If making from scratch
In the bowl of a standing mixer combine flours with dough hook attachment. Add remaining ingredients and “knead” in the mixer for about 3 minutes. Remove hook. Cover and let rise by double — about 30 minutes. Separate into 4 or 5 balls and let rest 30 minutes. Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough out as thinly as possible (almost see-through). Cut into strips or triangles or leave whole. Lay onto oiled sheet trays and drizzle with more oil. Bake 6-8 minutes until lightly browned and crunchy. Cool and serve.

EASY Chicken Noodle Soup

I have to admit that there’s not a whole lot of “cooking” to this recipe. It’s pretty much combining stuff. But when you’re not feeling good and want chicken noodle soup, or wanting an easy dish to make, this is certainly a great way to go.

32 oz box Low Sodium Chicken Broth
15 oz can Peas and Carrots
12 oz can Chunk Chicken
Salt & Pepper to taste
Egg noodles

Combine and heat broth, peas and carrots and chicken. Make egg noodles according to package separately. Put egg noodles in bowl and pour soup over.

* Note – don’t put all your egg noodles in the pot with the soup. They’ll absorb all the broth.

Ranch Spinach Dip

Just saw this on a commercial and I think I’m going to give it a try at our next gathering.

1 Packet of Hidden Valley Ranch
1 box of spinach (thawed)
16 oz sour cream

I’ve never been a big sour cream fan by itself but as the base of a dip, I’m good with it. They show it served in a bread bowl but I think I’ll serve it in a regular bowl with bread rounds, veggies and chips. I’ve also seen it with water chestnuts mixed in but I may pass on that. I’ll let you know how it goes or if I even try it.

Herb Garden

I like growing herbs in my garden. There’s rarely any doubt about how to use them and they grow well most of the year. I will have to pot my basil before it gets too cold, though. I got this email from Organic Gardening Magazine and just wanted to share the info with anyone else who may garden.

10 Best Herbs for Indoors
Start basil from seeds and place the pots in a south-facing window—it likes lots of sun and warmth.

Bay *Where do I find a bay tree??? I’ve wanted one for a while now.*
A perennial that grows well in containers all year long.
Place the pot in an east, or west, facing window, but be sure it does not get crowded—bay needs air circulation to remain healthy.

Start chervil seeds in late summer.
It grows well in low light but needs 65 to 70°F temperatures to thrive.

Dig up a clump from your garden at the end of the growing season and pot it up.
Leave the pot outside until the leaves die back.
In early winter, move the pot to your coolest indoor spot (such as a basement) for a few days, then finally to your brightest window.

Your best bet is to start with a tip cutting from an outdoor plant.
Place the pot in a south-facing window.

You can start this herb from seeds or dig up a clump from your garden at the end of the season.
Parsley likes full sun, but will grow slowly in an east, or west, facing window.

Start with a cutting of rosemary, and keep it in moist soilless mix until it roots.
It grows best in a south-facing window.

Take a tip cutting from an outdoor plant to start an indoor sage.
It tolerates dry, indoor air well, but it needs the strong sun it will get in a south-facing window.

A dormant period in late fall or early winter is essential for tarragon to grow indoors.
Pot up a mature plant from your outdoor garden and leave it outside until the leaves die back.
Bring it to your coolest indoor spot for a few days, then place it in a south-facing window for as much sun as possible.
Feed well with an organic liquid fertilizer.

You can start thyme indoors either by rooting a soft tip cutting or by digging up and potting an outdoor plant.
Thyme likes full sun but will grow in an east, or west, facing window.

Smart Techniques for Growing Herbs Indoors
Rooting a cutting
Many herbs—including oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage—are best propagated for indoor growing by taking a cutting from an existing outdoor plant. To do it, snip off a 4-inch section, measured back from the tip. Strip off the lower leaves and stick the stem into moist, soilless mix, such as perlite and/or vermiculite. To ensure good humidity, cover with glass or clear plastic, and keep the growing medium-moist.

Transition to indoors
Before the first fall frost (while the weather is still on the mild side), start moving your potted herb plants toward their winter home. Instead of bringing them directly inside, put them in a bright, cool “transitional zone,” such as a garage, entryway, or enclosed porch, for a few weeks.

Once they’ve acclimated, move them to an area with lots of sun (south-facing windows are brightest, followed by east or west views). But protect them from heat and dryness. Most herbs prefer daytime temperatures of about 65 to 70 degrees F, although they can withstand climbs into the 70s. It’s especially important that night temperatures drop at least 10 degrees—down into the 50s would be better—to simulate outdoor conditions.

With the exception of basil, they’ll even do well with occasional dips into the 40s. (So turn that thermostat down when you go to bed.) Place them outside on mild days, and give them regular baths to wash off dust.

Water, light, and temperature
Most herbs like to be well watered but don’t like wet feet. That’s why good drainage is important. Water when the top of the container feels dry, or learn to judge the moisture in the soil by the weight of the pot. Add sand or vermiculite to the potting soil to ensure good drainage.

Learn to juggle water, light, and temperature. An herb in a clay pot in a south-facing window will need more water than one in a plastic pot in an east, or west, facing window. If the light is low, keep the temperature low.
Pest prevention
Choose the soil for your indoor herbs carefully. A good commercial potting soil is fine, or for a deluxe mix, blend one part potting soil with one part compost and one part vermiculite, perlite, or sand (or a mixture of all three).

Resist the temptation to use disease- and pest-prone garden soil. And when you pot up garden-grown plants, remove as much of the garden soil as possible without damaging the roots.

Keep such transplants separate from your other houseplants while you’re gradually acclimating them to the indoors. If you see insects on a plant during this “quarantine,” leave it outside.

If, despite such defenses, your indoor plants do come under insect attack, help the herbs stay healthy by providing the correct mix of light and temperature, and give them regular baths. A plant weakened by hot, dry indoor conditions is even more susceptible to spider mite, whitefly, or aphid damage than a healthy one.

If you choose to use soap sprays to control these pests, remember that the wet spray must come in contact with the insect to be effective. Spray in the evening (and never in bright sunlight) to prevent rapid drying, and wash off residues the next day (or before eating the leaves). Don’t spray very young seedlings with soap!

Hold back on the water and fertilizer through December, but when the days start getting longer in mid-January, feed them with liquid seaweed or compost. Even potted soil gets compacted as you water it, so cultivate it with a little fork, then top-dress it with compost.

February is usually a great month for indoor plants because of all the bright light. By March, they are starting to get buds, and in April, be sure to put them outside on a warm day. Then it won’t be long before the herbs—and you—are ready to move back to the garden.

Have you joined?

Jamie Oliver has a new show on TV called Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Have you seen it yet? He’s doing some potentially amazing things for the community of Huntington, West Virginia. And the thing is, the problem isn’t just there. If you’d like to support the Food Revolution and sign the petition for better food in schools, go do it! Good on ya, Jamie!

Brisket – the process

Thanks to Dr. Dave & Saucy Joe’s blog for the guidance (and by guidance, I mean recipe, really) in making my brisket! So, here is my process with pictures:

First, you need to marinade the brisket. I used two bottles of Guinness Stout, one onion and two small cloves of garlic:

Because even the gallon Ziploc bags are too small for a 7 1/2 pound brisket, I opted to marinate in these Reynolds cooking bags.

That sat in the fridge for 24 hours. After 12 hours, I went ahead and flipped the meat over to insure that it marinated evenly.

The next morning, I took the brisket out of the bag, rinsed it off and patted it dry. It’s now ready for seasoning prep for cooking!

Before you go further, open a beer, pour it into a glass and let it go flat. Stir & shake a little to help the process. I know, you’re gasping right now but you’ll see why shortly.

This is part of the seasoning – equal parts brown sugar, dijon mustard & Worcester sauce. I actually made it the night before and let it sit in the fridge in this jar. The jar with lid certainly makes it easy to mix together – just shake!

This is what it looks like on the meat:

Then, just coat that with your favorite beef rub. Since I’ve never done this before, I went with the Fiesta seasoning brand brisket rub that I found at HEB. It’s a little bit spicier than I’d want but it had good flavor.

Once that’s all coated, let it sit an hour.

Next, it’s all about prepping the grill. I didn’t get as many pictures of this as I’d like – I have to admit that I’ve always been weak at building the fire in my grilling practices. But for some reason (maybe because I knew I had the power of Saucy Joe & Dr. Dave behind me), I had no problems this time! I probably had more coals on the grill than I actually needed, though. Regardless, it worked so no complaints here!

First thing’s first, you have to soak your wood chips. They had quite a few options at HEB and I was certainly glad for variety. I got Cherry & Pecan. I soaked those for about 30 minutes while the meat was resting after coating and I was preparing the grill itself.

I have a basic-sized Weber grill. I got a pot that’s made for cooking beans, etc. on a grill and put that on the charcoal grate. You’ll see why in a moment. Around that, about 2/3 of the way around the grill, I put charcoal down.

In the pot, I put in my flat beer (oh, okay), a can of beef broth and water. The pot is about 4″ deep & 4″ in diameter so the beer & broth filled it up quite well by themselves. This is to flavor the smoke & keep the meat moist while it cooks.

Then, using my chimney fire starter (charcoal on top, a little newspaper on the bottom – too much can suffocate the fire, btw), I started a fire but only put it over a part of the empty space I left, touching only one end of the cold coals. This allows the fire to move around the partial ring slowly, helping to control the heat during the cooking process. These are the little things you may not know that having an expert on your side (like Dr. Dave) helps with.

Put plenty of wood chips (I drained them most of the way after around 30 minutes) around both the hot coals and the cold coals. This will create smoke and add flavor to the meat. Once this is going, cover the grill and let the temperature inside get up to about 225 degrees. It took around 20 minutes or so for my grill. I measured it by sticking my meat thermometer (oh yeah, you’ll need one of those for this) in the top vent hole that’s open just slightly and letting the temperature settle. Once that happens, I put the meat on. See all that smoke? That’s what you want.

After 3 hours on the grill, only opening the lid to periodically add more wood chips, check the temperature of the meat, again using the meat thermometer. It needs to be around 160 degrees at its thickest part. Once it’s at that temperature, wrap it in two layers of heavy duty foil with a cup of water over the meat (more moisture) and either put into a 225 degree pre-heated oven or put back on the grill (as long as the grill temp is still around 225). You want to leave it until the meat temperature (still at its thickest part) is between 185-190 degrees. Nice thing about foil is you can test the temperature of meat without opening it (hint, hint).

Once it’s all done, let it rest in the foil for about an hour and you’re ready to eat. Enjoy!

Beef Stew

While walking through my local HEB on Sunday, I figured I should get something to make for dinner and decided on beef stew. I’ve made a roast before but I don’t know that I’ve ever made a beef stew so I took a moment to add some key ingredients I knew I didn’t have at home to my list. Here’s what I did when I got home:

1 Pot Beef Stew

1 lb beef chunks (I used pre-cut stew beef)
3 carrots
3 potatoes
1 onion
1 celery, including leaves
1 leek
Red Wine
Beef Stock
2 bay leaves
Dried basil
Dried rosemary
Salt & pepper

1. I coated the dried beef chunks (pre-cut) in flour and sautéed in the pot I was making the stew in (yes, this is a one pot dish!!).

2. I chopped up my veggies.
Carrots (I used 3)

Potatoes (I used 3)

Onion (I used 1)

Celery (I used 1, including leaves)

Leeks (I used 1 – cut open and wash each piece very carefully. It holds a lot of dirt.)

3. I turned the heat back on and deglazed the pan with some red wine and beef stock (I thawed leftover stock from a previous meal). I added salt, pepper, two bay leaves, basil (dried) & rosemary (dried) at this point as well.

4. All the veggies and meat go in the pot.

5. Cover and cook on medium high heat.

6. The veggies are tender so it’s ready to eat!

7. Final product: