Easy No-Knead Artisan Bread

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I’ve always been terrified of making bread. Well, actually, I’ve been terrified of making anything that requires yeast. The whole rising process is very intimidating to me. I guess I am afraid of investing so much time into something and then have it fail. But last week I decided to overcome my fears and give breadmaking a whirl. And you know what? Aside from the bread being a little salty (I was a little heavy-handed on the salt but have adjusted the recipe below accordingly), I was really impressed with how well my bread turned out and I am looking forward to making it again!

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Beginners at smoking meat

7 Jul photo

Over the holiday weekend, Alex and I FINALLY broke out the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker that his mother bought us for Christmas. We were a bit intimidated by it at first. Smokers and smoking meat is a real science that takes people years to perfect, and we were definitely amateurs. It took a little convincing to get Alex to agree to bring it out over the holiday weekend since he thought that the whole process would be overly complicated, but he reluctantly agreed. So we woke up all bright eyed and bushy tailed Friday morning to play with our new toy. The smoker itself was pretty easy to assemble. The smoking process, however, was not as easy. People have told us that you can just throw a piece of meat in there, walk away and come back several hours later to a nicely cooked finished product. We found that to not be the case. It may have been due to our lack of knowledge on the matter, but we found ourselves babysitting the smoker all day to make sure that the temperature stayed within the proper heat range. We were continually heating up more coals and feeding it to the smoker. All in all, we had a great time learning about this new cooking method. Here is a recap of our day:

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Thai Grilled Chicken Wings

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A common question people have been asking me during my pregnancy is whether or not I’ve been getting any weird cravings, and the answer is no.  I haven’t really felt the urge to eat anything super strange like pickles and ice cream (although there was one day where I ate 5 pickles followed by a chocolate chip cookie for lunch).  My cravings have been more reasonable like tomatoes, avocadoes and olive tapenade.   The only thing is, when I do get a craving for something I have to eat it ASAP and in large quantities.  For example, I went through an entire week where I ate guacamole almost every day….sometimes twice a day.  One of my more recent cravings has been for my dad’s grilled chicken wings.

My dad makes awesome grilled chicken wings.  He spent much of my childhood perfecting this recipe, which means we had grilled chicken wings ALL the time.  Birthdays, Easter, Christmas….if there was a special occasion or a gathering of people, there were chicken wings.  So when I got this craving I texted my dad for the recipe.  He ended up not getting back to me until the next day and, as I mentioned earlier, when I crave something I need to have it immediately.  So I tried to recreate his wings without any of his guidance and they actually turned out pretty darn good.  Here is MY version of my dad’s delicious “Thai-style” grilled chicken wings.

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Cleveland road trip

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Alex and I have been meaning to take a road trip to Cleveland for quite some time now. The drive from Pittsburgh is only two hours and we’ve heard great things about the food scene up there. I’m also mildly obsessed with Michael Symon and have been dying to dine at one of his restaurants (specifically B Spot).

So, we decided to drive up to Cleveland the weekend after Easter with Alex’s brother and his wife. We hit the road right after work on Friday with plans to drive straight to the B Spot for dinner. As a growing pregnant woman, I didn’t think I would be able to hold off on eating dinner for so long but I guess the thought of eating at the B Spot gave me strength to endure the hunger pains.

We finally arrived at the restaurant around 8pm only to find that there was a two hour wait for a table! After some deliberation, we decided to go elsewhere for a burger [insert sad face/crying emoji here].

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Doughsant vs. Paczki: Revenge of the specialty doughnuts

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Much like everything else in our society, the typical breakfast doughnut has evolved from its humble glazed beginnings to something much more decadent.   Sure you can still get a plain or sugar-coated cake but be aware that others might look upon you with disdain for selecting something so ordinary when there are so many extraordinary varieties to choose from.

What are some of the interesting flavors out there?

Taro (Hawaii)

Purple Goat: lavender glazed and filled with berry goat cheese (South Carolina)

Chorizo Cheddar (Los Angeles)

Voodoo Bubblegum: Glazed topped with bubble gum dust and an actual piece of gum (Oregon)

Lemon Sichuan: Lemon curd-filled topped with Sichuan spice (San Francisco)

 

The specialty doughnut also included different types of doughnuts as well.  For example, the Cronut is croissant-doughnut hybrid invented by Dominique Bakery in New York City.  It’s made by layering croissant dough, cutting it into a shape of a doughnut and frying it.

This past weekend, Alex and I ventured out to Oakmont Bakery for some breakfast.  We wanted to try their version of the Cronut, they call it the Doughsant, to see what all the hype was about.  While we were looking through the rows of doughnut varieties, we just could not pass up the opportunity to have a Maple Bacon Paczki.  For those unfamiliar with a Paczki, it’s the Polish version of a doughnut.  Deep-fried pieces of dough shaped into flatten spheres and traditionally filled with rose hip jelly and covered with powdered sugar.

So now the big question is which specialty doughnut reigns supreme?  Is it a regular glazed specialty dough type like the Cronut. Or is a more traditional dough with unique flavors and toppings.

Here is my verdict:

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Chicken fried steak, by a Northerner

11 Mar

Okay I have to admit, I’ve never attempted to make country fried steak before. So when Alex suggested it for dinner Sunday night I very reluctantly agreed. (I hate messing up a Sunday dinner).   I immediately went on the iPad to google “best chicken fried steak recipe”.  My results led me to this Alton Brown recipe, which I altered slightly to give it my own little flare.  It turned out pretty decent for a Northerner’s first attempt so I figured I’d share.  Enjoy!

Chicken Fried Steak
4 servings (or if you are glutens like us, 2 servings)

2 pounds beef bottom round steaks
2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 whole eggs, beaten
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup olive oil, plus 1 tbsp
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup whole milk
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

2. Mix flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne and place into a pie pan. Place the beaten eggs and Worcestershire sauce into a separate pie pan.

3. Dredge the meat on both sides in the flour mixture. Tenderize the meat, using a needling device or meat tenderizer, until each slice is 1/4-inch thick.

4. Once tenderized, dredge the meat again in the flour, followed by the egg and finally in the flour again. Repeat with all the pieces of meat. Place the meat onto a plate and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.

5. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook one steak at a time as to not overcrowd the pan.  Cook each piece on both sides until golden brown, approximately 4 minutes per side.

6. Keep cooked steaks warm in the heated oven while cooking the other steaks and preparing the gravy.

7. Once all the steaks are finished, add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of flour left over from the dredging. Add chicken broth and deglaze the pan. Whisk until the gravy comes to a boil and begins to thicken. Add milk and whisk until the gravy coats the back of a spoon, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Season to taste, with more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve the gravy over the steaks.

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Crispy oven “fried” chicken wings

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Alex and I decided to throw a Super Bowl party for ourselves this year. What does that mean? Basically, we are going to cook a bunch of party food and eat it ourselves. It’s really the best kind of party. There is no need to dress up or put on makeup. We know exactly what we want to eat, how much to cook and we don’t have to worry about someone taking the last chicken wing which we secretly wanted for ourselves.

So what’s first on our menu tonight? Crispy oven “fried” chicken wings. We are HUGE fans of extra crispy deep-fried chicken wings and it’s seldom that I enjoy eating a baked chicken wing. But the fact is, deep frying at home can be messy. So a couple of years ago, I spent quite some time researching the best way to bake a crispy chicken wing and I finally came up with a fool proof method that requires zero oil! I know there are probably a lot of skeptics out there but I promise you these wings will not disappoint. (Alex is a picky wing eater and he loves them – or at least that’s what he tells me).

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