Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti


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In honor of Julia Child, who would be 101 years of age on 15 August 2013. . .
. . .”This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”  Julia Child My Life in France 

There was some beautiful produce plus one unusual {at least for us} item at the farmers market today.

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After work last Tuesday, we received an invitation to Kamaole 3 Beach Park for a sunset BBQ on Wednesday.  “Yes! Yes! Yes!” was the reply to the invite.  We jump at any opportunity to have a sunset beach BBQ; good friends, good food & gorgeous scenery is only a 40 minute drive away.  I made this chocolate cake to share.  The cake is delicious & quick & easy to make.  It’s not a fancy cake, but then I’m not a fancy baker.  Decorated cakes are lovely, but I am not big on decorating my cakes.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Chocolate Sheet Cake adapted from In the Sweet Kitchen: the Definitive Baker’s Companion

Cake:
3 c flour {I use whole wheat pastry flour}
1 3/4 c sugar
1/2 c natural unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Ghiradelli or Hershey’s
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
12 T vegetable oil
2 T white vinegar
2 t vanilla
2 c cool water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda & salt to an ungreased 9”x11” baking dish.  Stir well to mix.  With the back of a spoon, make three indentations or wells in the dry mixture: one large, one medium & one small.  Into the large well, pour the vegetable oil.  Into the medium well, pour the vinegar.  Into the small well, pour the vanilla.  Pour the water over everything.  With a fork, stir the mixture until the ingredients are well-blended, making sure you reach the corners & sides to catch any dry pockets.  Do not beat this batter, but mix just until most of the lumps are smoothed out, & there are no little patches of overly thick or runny batter.  A few lumps won’t hurt, & it’s important not to overbeat at this point.

Bake for 35-40” {I always start checking at 28” so as not to overbake} or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs & the top feels springy when lightly touched.  Cool completely on a wire rack before turning out, frosting or cutting.

Frosting:
1/2 c cocoa powder
2 2/3 c powdered sugar
6T butter
4-5 T milk or water {I always use milk, or cream if I happen to have some}
1 t vanilla
Pinch of salt {brings out the chocolate flavor}

Whisk cocoa, powdered sugar & salt together. Cream butter & add powdered sugar alternately with milk.  I don’t necessarily follow the recipe exactly as far as the milk goes, but just add enough milk to get the consistency I want {I like it soft-not runny & certainly not stiff}.  Spread on cooled cake.

Pita Breads

We went to another sunset BBQ last night, but we were in someone’s condo, not at the beach.  Two of the ladies who were at the first BBQ are visiting from the Mainland, and invited us over for dinner.  I decided to make hummus {post to follow on another day} to be eaten with homemade pita bread.  I’ve made pita bread a few times and it was always tasty, but the pockets didn’t always form.  I tried a new recipe, and it worked great!  I will definitely use it again.  I used half whole wheat flour and half bread flour.  It is from The Fresh Loaf website, where there are many recipes that I will be trying.

Borscht

We love eating soup & I enjoy making soups; most of the soups I make are vegetarian.  Today I made borscht.  I’ve made it before and have wanted to make it again; I finally got to it today.  It was great for lunch.

Russian Cabbage Borscht adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen.

1 ½ cups thinly sliced potato
1 cup thinly sliced beets
4 cups water or stock

Put potatoes, beets and water in a medium saucepan and cook until everything is tender {save the water}.

2 tbsp butter
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 scant tsp caraway seeds
1 ½ tsp salt
1 large sliced carrot
1 stalk chopped celery
3 cups chopped green cabbage
Optional: 1 tbsp raisins
Black pepper, preferably freshly ground
¼ tsp dried dill weed
1 tbsp + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp honey
1 cup tomato puree {I pulsed a 14 1/2 oz. can of tomatoes in my food processor}

Melt the butter in a large soup pot and add the onions, caraway seeds and salt.  Cook until onion is translucent, and then add carrots, celery and cabbage.  Add the cooking water from the beets & potatoes, and cook, covered, until all the vegetables are tender.  Add potatoes, beets and all remaining ingredients.

Cover and simmer slowly for at least 30 minutes.  Taste and correct seasonings.

Serve topped with sour cream or plain yogurt, extra dill weed and chopped fresh tomatoes.

Note: The next time I make this soup, I am going to chop the beets and potatoes instead of slicing them.

Take some time to prepare & enjoy delicious food.

Bon appetit!


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Waiting for Flossie

We don’t get a lot of rain where we live in Pukalani, so today’s rain was welcome. The morning sky was a mix of blue, gray clouds & sun breaks; the wind was soft. Big winds are a frequent occurrence in Pukalani, winds so big it’s a wonder that plants have any foliage & that any of us have a hair left on our heads. But they aren’t the sustained winds that come with a storm. We are waiting for Flossie, the Tropical Storm that is currently headed for Maui, to arrive. Right now, the rain is falling a little harder & the palm fronds are swaying gently. A few birds are chirping here & there, but we aren’t hearing the usual afternoon bird symphony of chirps & tweets. We hear an occasional cock-a-doodle-doo from a neighborhood chicken.

We spent the morning preparing for Flossie. The smart thing to do if you think you may lose power is to make some food so you are ready if it happens. Having lived in the Pacific Northwest for over 20 years, we are experts at getting ready for a power outage; we experienced many. A big difference is that when the power goes out on Maui, it isn’t freezing cold outside. We have plenty to eat, so I just prepared a few things to make our day just a little tastier. I made cornbread using Bob’s Red Mill Blue Cornmeal, which I hear is more nutritious than yellow cornmeal, these oatmeal muffins and Passato of Vegetables , one of our favorite soups {good hot or cold}. Today is cool enough to enjoy the soup hot, and warm enough to eat it cold, should we be sans power. Fingers crossed that the power stays on!

Blue Cornbread {adapted from Moosewood Cookbook}
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 cup blue cornmeal {of course you can use yellow}
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Whisk together honey, buttermilk, egg & butter. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry & mix well.

Bake in a greased 8″x 8″ pan at 425 degrees for 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. I love it with butter & molasses.

Blue Cornbread

More rain has arrived, along with thunder! And now there is lightning! Time for hot soup.

Life is too short to eat mediocre bread, and there is a lot of it out there.

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Bread baked and cut final

One of life’s great pleasures is the aroma of yeasty bread dough in the oven, transforming itself into a beautiful, delectable, crusty loaf of bread.  If you have never baked homemade yeast bread, you are in for a treat.  It really doesn’t take a lot of time; you can have delicious bread from start to finish in 3 hours or less, depending on the bread.  Much of that time is rising time, so you can be doing something else, like making soup or salad to accompany your freshly baked bread.

It isn’t just the smell that is enticing though.  Bread dough feels good in your hands.  Not so much at the beginning, when it is a sticky, shaggy mass of dough…

Rough shaggy dough final

but when your mindful kneading transforms it into a silky, supple ball of dough, it is a pleasure to behold.  I find kneading bread to be therapeutic and calming.

Kneaded bread final

I have been making yeast breads by hand for many years, although I am certainly not an expert on the subject.  I will say that I am not a fan of bread machines.  Perhaps I had a bad experience with one.  My mother-in-law had a bread machine when they first came out, and she made some tasty breads.  She enjoyed hers so much that she gave one to us.  I used it a few times.  It was nice to wake up to freshly baked bread courtesy of the bread machine, but it had a hole in the middle of the cylindrical loaf.  I could live with that, but the outside of the bread was slightly burned when the inside was undercooked.  So I decided to try letting the bread machine do the kneading, and I would bake off the loaf the “old fashioned” way.  Doing that deprived me of the pleasure of getting my hands into the dough and experiencing that lovely change in texture from rough to silky smooth.  Bread machine?? Not for me, thank you very much!  I gave ours away to an appreciative uncle.

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Whole Wheat Rye Potato Bread

1 medium sized potato
reserved potato cooking water
2 packages dry yeast
2 tbsp butter, cut into small chunks
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 cup warm milk {low fat is fine}
3-4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups dark rye flour
3 tbsp coarse cornmeal + 3 tbsp ground flax seeds + whole wheat flour to make 1 cup
3tbsp caraway seeds {or fennel, anise or a combination of them}

Peel & dice the potato.  Cover with water & boil until potato is tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Save 1 cup of the potato water {add hot tap water if you do not have enough}.  Mash the potato & set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together 3 cups whole wheat flour, rye flour & cornmeal/flax seeds/whole wheat flour mixture.  Keep the additional cup of whole wheat flour in case you need to use it.

Pour the {not too hot} potato water in another large bowl, then sprinkle in the yeast & stir with a wooden spoon.  Add the butter, honey, caraway seeds and salt, and then stir in the mashed potato {approximately 1 cup}, warm milk & 3 cups of flour mixture.  When you add the yeast to the warm potato water, it will begin to activate.  It will begin to get bubbly as you add the remaining ingredients & will look like this. . .

Bubbly yeast final

Beat until smooth, and then add enough additional flour to make a stiff dough.  When it gets hard to incorporate any more flour with the spoon, turn the dough out on a lightly floured counter.  Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.  Wash the bowl in which you mixed the dough, butter it and then place the dough back in the bowl, turning to coat all sides with butter.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel & let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.  This should take 45-60 minutes.  I like to turn on the oven for 2 minutes, turn it off and then put my bowl of dough in the toasty warm oven to rise.  Don’t forget to turn off the oven or you will bake your bread prematurely!  I have heard that the pilot light in a gas oven has enough warmth to be a good place to let bread rise, but I have never had a gas oven, so can’t vouch for that one.

How do you know when your dough has doubled in bulk?  It is difficult to “eyeball it” so there is a little test you can use.  Poke 2 fingers into your dough after it has risen for 45 minutes; if the indentations remain, your dough is ready for the next step.  If not, cover it back up for 15 more minutes & repeat the test.

Indentation test to see if dough is finished rising final

When doubled, punch the dough down, cover and let rise again in a warm spot for 20 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter & knead for 1-2 minutes.

Now you are ready to shape your loaves!  Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces {I use my kitchen scale to do this} & shape.  You can either sculpt the dough into a loaf with your hands, or you can do it jelly roll style, as shown in the slideshow {right before the recipe}.

Note about yeast:  When you are adding warm liquids to yeast, make sure the temperature of the liquid is between 100 & 115 degrees Fahrenheit.  If your liquid is too hot, you risk killing the yeast & your bread will not rise.  Be sure to check the expiration date on your yeast to verify that it is not outdated.  It may still work. . .or it may not.

Enjoy the kinesthetic, aromatic & flavorful joys of baking your own yeast bread. . .and don’t forget the butter!