Monday, December 19, 2011

Mt. Rainier Shortbread

In September, the church next door invited my house to go on a day hike on Mt. Rainier. It was our first cold, rainy day, so honestly not the best for hiking. Still, the wildflowers were in bloom, we saw an amazing waterfall, and the sky finally cleared so we could see the summit. But given the weather, these cookies were the highlight of the trip. Cold rain equals curling up in layers and eating shortbread.

Honestly, I love all shortbread, but this one was especially memorable. It uses some rice flour, which I suggest picking up from a grocery store or co-op that sells bulk flours, and the dough holds together enough to work with cookie cutters. Last weekend when baking for an alumni cookie exchange, I decided these would be perfect and cut them into snowflakes. Absolutely delicious!

Tina's Mt. Rainier Shortbread
4 cups flour
1/4 cup rice flour
1 cup sugar
1 pound butter

Roll out the dough between sheets of wax paper about 1/4 inch thick. Bake at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, 20-30 minutes.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Trail Food

Hannah and I went canoeing last weekend. In the interest of minimizing menu planning time in the future, I’m sharing what we ate here.

Breakfast                                 Lunch                         Dinner
                                                                                               Grilled Pizza
Sourdough Pancakes                Summer sausage       Peanut Soba Noodles
Buckwheat Pancakes                MRE-Indian              Grilled Veggies
Brownies and Fruit Compote   Salmon Patties

What? Isn’t going camping an excuse to cook delicious food outside for everyone?

Recipes for reference, sorted by meal:

Sourdough pancakes
Adapted from From Troop 655 sharing Jim Hewin's Sourdough Pancakes

Ingredients (mix dry ahead) - 10 to 12 servings
1 c. flour
1 egg
1 pkg. dry yeast
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. oil

Packing the Food 
Put the flour and yeast in an empty plastic peanut butter jar.
In a separate ziplock bag add the dry ingredients. Write the trail directions on the bag with a permanent marker. Oil and toppings (or fillings) will be carried with everything else.

On the trail 
The night before you plan to enjoy this breakfast, take the egg and the ziplock bag out of the peanut butter jar. Add in a cup of water. Mix it with the flour and yeast. Put the lid on the batter and secure in your bear bag.

In the morning, add the oil, egg, and ziplock of dry ingredients to the batter. Mix it up well.
Turn on your camp stove, melt some butter and fry up your pancakes.

We ate ours with blueberry-lime jam.  And put blueberries and chocolate chips in them. (Not all at once.)

Lesson to remember, don’t try to do a soufflĂ©. It’s too hard to flip. Burnt the crust and had gooey inside. Maybe if I’d covered it, it would have worked.

Buckwheat Pancakes

Y’know the Bob's Red Mill bags that you see if you look at the hippie grains in the grocery store? There’s a buckwheat pancake mix1. Hannah brought that. And blueberries. And I brought blueberry-lime jam. That’s really all you need to know.  She also served us each a fried egg. Apparently eggs actually work well on the trail.

Brownie Breakfast
Adapted from who shared from Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin'

Both the brownies and the fruit compote were supposed to be dessert. But we were always full by the time we finished dinner. Solution to eat it for breakfast.  And then go be active so you don’t feel the sugar crash as much.

1/2 cup flour
1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa
3/8 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1 TBS milk powder
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup walnuts
5 teaspoons of oil added on the trail. (2 teaspoons per serving)
Water added on the trail (2 tablespoons per serving)

Packing the Food
Combine flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt and milk powder. Once fully mixed add chocolate chips and nuts. You can place 1/2 cup of mix into a ziplock bag, for individual servings. If you do, this recipe should give you three servings. Carry oil and water with the general provisions.

On the trail
Add a teaspoon of oil and two Tablespoons of water to a bag of brownie mix and mix it up. (We didn’t measure the liquid. The first bag looked too wet, so we poured our second brownie mix bag into the first. This is the only reason I recommend keeping the bags separate instead of just combining them all.)

On your cook stove, heat some oil in a skillet on low heat. Add some brownie batter, cutting a corner of the bag seemed like the best strategy. When it looks ready, flip and cook the other side.

Without an egg, these weren’t easily flipped. It worked best to cook them a bit,  flip parts, treat them kinda like scrambled brownies. Though next time I might just include an egg to mix in.

Fruit Compote
One of my favorite transformations of trail mix. (I now always make sure that I have candied ginger in my trail mix.)

Picked through trail mix

On the trail
Cut up fruit to cook. This time we had a couple of pears and an apple. We also juiced half an orange.  Put it in a pot. Add favorite trail mix components. This time I think we just used ginger. In the past I’ve used raisins, crainsins, dried cherries, chocolate chips, even some nuts. (If the fruit is just apples, adding some chocolate chips make the juice at the end chocolate cider goodness.)

Put pot on cook stove (or over fire if it’s actually at dinner and a fire was used) and cook on medium to low heat until the fruit is done.


Packing summer sausage and some good cheese makes for a good lunch early on in a trip. (The cheese won’t keep forever. For that matter, I wouldn’t trust the meat that long either.) We had mustard, but didn’t use it. We had pita bread, but didn’t use it either. We did use the grilled bread made with the leftover pizza dough.

Salmon Patties

Were really a last minute adaptation on the trail. Hannah mixed a packet of salmon (travels great), with an egg and some buckwheat flour. (Though she would have preferred some crushed up saltines if we’d known to pack them.) Flavor with salt and pepper. Unfortunately the lemon had gone bad on the trail. Fried up on a skillet on the camp stove. Served with pita.


Grilled Pizza

Hannah’s creation. She made the sauce at home the night before. Froze it. In the morning before leaving for our trip she made some dough to the point of kneading and then placed it in a bag. Brought mozzarella and a grill grate to put over the fire.

We would spread out the dough, cook it on one side. Flip and sauce and cheese it up. When done, take it off and serve.

Next time, we’re bringing extra thick pepperoni to grill and then put on the pizza. (Because on the night with the grilled veggies we also grilled up the leftover summer sausage. Carciongenic heart attack, so you can’t eat it every day. But as Hannah said, “It’s everything I love and everything I hate about meat.”)

Peanut Soba Noodles
I like this recipe at home. So I brought it on the trail. It uses lots of pots, so make sure you have 2 people’s worth of gear. It makes a lot though. We finished with another serving leftover. The sauce was adapted from The Crabby Cook.

3 Tbsp Honey
2 Tbsp Soy sauce
1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
4 Tbsp Peanut butter
4 Tbsp Water

2-3 cloves garlic (It's the trail. You're ignoring germs. Give yourself an immune boost and use 3.)
Crushed red pepper flakes (or a couple of those dried chilies)

Soba noodles
Veggies: onion, carrots, and red pepper 

Packing the Food
Measure the honey, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil into a small container to carry on the trail. (I used a 1/2 cup mason jar, even though packing glass is questionable.)

On the trail
SautĂ© the onion. (Cut into whatever size you want. I like strips.) In a pot, start boiling water for the noodles and tofu.  Slice up the tofu (I like little cubes) and add to the water.

In another pot, add the sauce base. Add the peanut butter and 4 Tablespoons of the water boiling for the noodles and tofu. Mix well. Add in the garlic and crushed pepper. Meanwhile, go ahead and cook the noodles in the boiling water with the tofu in it.

Meanwhile, prepare the other veggies. I like the carrots to be in peels and red pepper in strips. Hannah doesn’t like red peppers, so they got reserved and only put on mine.

When the sauce is mixed up, add the onion and other veggies. Once the noodles are cooked, drain the pot, and combine the noodles and tofu with the peanut sauce and veggies. Serve on up.

Grilled Veggies
Bring skewers. It’s easier than making your own out of maple saplings (like Hannah did).

Veggies: corn, cherry tomatoes, pepper, onion

Corn on the cob can, in fact, survive three days in a bag on the trail/river. And be delicious when served with butter and salt. Despite our doubts.

Cut veggies to skewer size. Skewer them. Put on grill grate over fire. Monitor by rotating them frequently enough. Serve.

Couscous is amazing trail food. It’s light, cooks up a lot, doesn’t require any draining, and is quick to prepare. This time with was good with the veggies. In the past it’s been good with salmon (why I packed the salmon in the first place). And if you buy one of the mixes from the store, there may already be extra flavors so it’s not bland. (If you pack your own, remember to add spices.)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Our Biscuit Counting Family

Cousin: "What brings you to town?"
Mom: "Oh, Betsy was in the state, so we needed to visit Grandmom."

It seems that I have reached the age where I return home with decreasing frequency. Although I'm here for much of the summer, that isn't likely to happen again. Thus, my return is enough of an event to require a visit.

Although I almost always visit Grandmom when I'm home, I hadn't helped her cook in awhile. Often, I'm only there briefly, so dinner has already been made or in the middle of preparation by the time that I arrive. However, this time dinner wasn't until the second day of my visit, so I had all afternoon to help. And of course, I was most eager to bake biscuits.

If you are not related to me, these might not be exactly the biscuits you are used to--they're not Bojangles at any rate. But if you are related to me, then you always know exactly how many biscuits you and each of your cousins have eaten and agree that the only biscuits that can beat Grandmom's are Aunt Nancy's.

Grandmom's Biscuits:
2 cups sifted, self-rising flour (Red Band is best, but Adluh will work)
5 "soup-spoonfuls" of shortening (6ish Tablespoons?)
3/4 cup buttermilk

Blend the flour and shortening together with a pastry cutter. Then, stir the buttermilk into the mix. If needed, add a bit more flour to bring the dough together and keep it from sticking.

Light pass the dough back and forth between your hands to bring it together. Remember that you want the dough light, so don't knead it too much. Roll out the dough without pressing down to a bit thicker than a quarter inch. There should be more shearing action than pushing flat.

Cut out rounds, and place close together on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until done.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Kick out the cold

I woke up this morning feeling a cold coming on. It skipped the head and went straight to my chest. Suddenly the cheese-topped pizza I'd planned for dinner didn't sound so good.

Soup, however, sounded perfect. Even if it's not my normal choice to celebrate the coming spring, smooth warmth against my throat was what I needed.

I searched for a ginger lentil soup, found a recipe that I had enough of the ingredients for, and I was set.

 So my Cold-Kicking Carrot-Lentil Soup (adapted from Daily Unadventures in Cooking)

A drizzle of vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Big knob of ginger (I used maybe 3-4 inches worth), grated
3 finger peppers (I think that's what they were called. Little spice peppers), chopped
1/2 a pound of carrots (rest of my bag, 6 or so carrots), grated
1 cup red lentils
4 cups vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Cayenne pepper
1/2 lemon, juiced
Yogurt (or sour cream)

1. Caramelize the onions in the oil. Add in the garlic, ginger, and peppers. Cook for another minute or so before...

2. Add in the stock, lentils, and carrots. Pinch in some salt. Grind a little bit of pepper. Sprinkle in some cayenne (I was running out of it, so I only had a teeny bit).

3. Bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes until lentils are soft.

4. Add in the lemon juice. Put in blender on low until smooth.

Serve. Top with yogurt (or sour cream) for friends who don't have a cold and need to tone down the heat.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

8th week is a time for treats

With my comps talk being complete, I found myself with some free time during 8th week. Since 8th is often crunch time, I figured that friends would appreciate a treat. I decided to try a new recipe for shortbread, as it should be able to handle a day or two in a mailbox.

After returning from stuffing mailboxes, I tried the shortbread and immediately considered returning to the Post Office to retrieve the bars that I had just delivered. Why had I shared these? I wanted them all! Although shortbread isn't usually my favorite baked good, this recipe is now on my go-to list.

Hungarian Shortbread with Raspberry Jam
from Baking with Julia

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large egg yolks
2 cups granulated sugar
~3/4 cup raspberry jam

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

Using a mixer, beat the butter on high speed until it is pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and sugar and beat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is light. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until the ingredients are incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and cut in half. Shape each half into a ball and wrap each in plastic. Freeze the dough for about 30 minutes, until firm. (You can freeze the dough, tightly wrapped, for up to a month at this point. Thaw overnight, still wrapped, in the refrigerator.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350F. Remove one ball of dough from the freezer and using the side of a box grater with the largest holes, grate the dough into a 9-by-12 inch baking pan. Pat the dough gently just to get it into the corners (you don't want to press it down) and spread with the rhubarb jam. Grate the remaining dough over the jam and press it lightly to distribute it evenly. Bake the shortbread for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown.

As soon as you remove the pan from the oven, dust the top of the shortbread heavily with confectioner's sugar. Cool to room temperature on a rack. Cut into bars when it is cool.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Starting the New Year Right

Oatmeal's not very photogenic. That's not the point of any porridge. I guess.

I never liked oatmeal growing up. Unless it was mixed with brown sugar and on top of apple crisp, then I loved it. But the rest of the time, not so much.

Home over Christmas I had some and remembered why. The quick cook oats have the texture all wrong. I want the chewy oats. Most oatmeal days are rolled oats with a layer of berries, pour on some boiling water. Let sit in toaster oven for a few minutes so cinnamon sugar can caramelize. But for special days I've graduated to steel cut oats.

Grown up Oatmeal

Basic Skeleton of the Recipe from Alton Brown and the Food Network. But really, dress it up. Make it an occasion.

Bit of butter
1 part steel cut oatmeal
3 parts water
1 part milk

Following Alton, I melt the butter and toast the oatmeal for a few minutes. (Might as well since the water needs to come up to a boil.) Pour in the water and let it simmer for 25 minutes. Do the dishes from last night or something.

Add the the milk (today a cup of skim, often a mixture of buttermilk and skim), I stir in a Tablespoon of brown sugar, a dash of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, and a pinch of salt. Today I added a handful of raisins. Some crumbled walnuts. Frozen blackberries and raspberries. (Frozen blueberries are picked out of the Target mix fruit bag to save for muffin making.)

Simmer some more until the liquids are mostly absorbed, today it took 14 minutes.

 Curl up with the bowl and enjoy.