Category Archives: Food

Simple Italian Bread

There are few smells from my childhood that I remember more than brewing coffee, simmering tomato sauce, or sauteing garlic.  One of them is the smell of fresh bread coming out of the oven.  I used to think it was amazing that my mother made fresh bread.  I used to think it was just one of those things that you have to buy because you just can’t make it yourself.  Well, a simple loaf should never be hard to make.  The hardest part might be keeping it around for more than 20 minutes.  The recipe below is just a collection of recipes I have tried over the years and picking from them the techniques that I liked best.  The best part about making bread besides eating it is that it is very easy to experiment with by incorporating different ingredients into the dough.  You can add substitute whole wheat flour for part or all of the bread flour to get a more rustic, wheat flavored bread.  Or you can add herbs like rosemary or thyme in the final five minutes of mixing the dough to give it some earthy flavors.

Ingredients:

1 cup of 100 degree water
1 1/4 teaspoon sugar (I prefer organic brown sugar)
1 pack of active dry yeast (1/4 oz.)
3 cups of high-gluten (bread) flour
2 tablespoons extra-vrigin olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon milk

Preparation

Pour water into bowl of electric stand mixer.  Stir in sugar and then add yeast.  Let stand for 5 minutes this will let the yeast ‘bloom’, the yeasty water should have bubbles on the surface when it is ready.  Add oil, salt, and 2 cups of flour to the water.  Attach bread hook to electric mixer and mix on low speed for 1 minute.  Once all elements are combined add remaining 1 cup of flour to dough 1 tablespoon at a time allowing the flour to be incorporated before adding the next (about 30 seconds in between tablespoons).  You will know when enough flour has been added when the dough is smooth and soft.  If it is wet and sticky add more flour.  The dough should spring back when you push it with a finger and you should be able to stretch it out in a thin transparent square without it breaking.  If the dough is too dry, looks rough, and is pulling apart you will have to start over – it is very important to not over flour the dough for you can not add more water back into the dough.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Increase the speed on your mixer to medium and let it knead for 5 – 8 minutes – the dough should be smooth, firm and elastic.  Place dough in large, lightly oiled bowl.   Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot (85 degrees) and let it sit for 30 minutes, the dough should have doubled in size.  Punch the dough down and let sit covered for 10 more minutes.  Turn dough out onto lighted floured surface.  Roll dough up from the long sides pinching the seam together and form a elongated loaf about 12 inches long.

Whisk egg and milk together in a bowl.  Brush a light coating over the top of the dough.  (Note – The egg wash step is optional as it is mostly to give the loaf a nice brown color.  Skip the milk and use just the egg if you want a darker looking loaf, remove the yolk and use just the egg white for a lighter colored crust.  This where you can also add sesame seeds if you feel so inclined.)  With a sharp pairing knife, cut 3, 1/4 inch slits into the top of the loaf on a diagonal.

Place on an oiled baking sheet and pop in the oven for 16-20 minutes, until golden browned.  For a crispier crust, spray bread lightly with water at the 7 minute baking mark.

Enjoy with pasta, salads, or my Pumpkin Chili recipe: The bread is wonderful straight from the oven with butter, it usually does not last past this point.  Recipe can be doubled by doubling flour, water, yeast, sugar, and salt.  Use same amount of the rest.

Helpful Pics and tips:

The yeast will look like this when it is bloomed and active

Dough should look like this when it is done kneading and ready to rise.

 

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Filed under Bread, Food, Recipe

Pumpkin Beer Chicken Chili

This recipe was adapted by my in-laws from an old cooking light magazine.  My wife has been eating this since she was a little kid and was excited to make it for the first time a few days ago chronicled in an earlier post here: https://croe33.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/pumkin-chili/.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped red bell pepper
3 tablespoons jalapeno pepper — seeded, and minced
2 clove garlic — crushed
1 cup beer – I prefer an ale (Smuttynose Old Dog Ale is great here)
1 cup Swanson organic chicken broth
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 – 28 ounces can no-salt-added whole tomatoes — drained, seeded and chopped
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts — cut in tiny pieces
2 cups cooked fresh pumpkin (1 medium-small pumpkin)– cubed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
16 ounces canned pinto beans — drained
6 tablespoons sliced green onions
6 tablespoons sharp cheddar cheese — shredded (1 1/2 ounces)
6 tablespoons nonfat sour cream

Preparation:

Step 1 – Pumpkin

Peel one medium-small sized pumpkin, cut in half and remove seeds and stringy guts.  chop into 1 inch cubes and boil for 15-30 minutes.  You will know it is done when you poke it with a fork and the fork pulls right out without much force.

Step 2 – Chili
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion; saute 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Add bell pepper, jalapeno, and garlic; saute 5 minutes. Add beer and next 7 ingredients (beer through chicken); bring to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until chicken is done. Stir in pumpkin, cilantro, cocoa, and beans; cook 5 minutes.

Enjoy over rice or fresh baked Italian bread.

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Filed under Chicken, Chili, Food, Pumpkin, Recipe

Fantasy Football and Pumpkin Chili

While my wife is in the next room making pumpkin chili, moaning with exertion with every knife stroke that slices its way through the orange, vegetal flesh of the pumpkin, I am stewing over my fantasy football line-up for tomorrow’s games.  QB: do I start Atlanta’s Matt RyanAKA Matty Ice because he is so cool under pressure and has been

Wife (Erica) cutting pumpkin for pumpkin chili

tearing up the football field from under center this season, or do I start the rookie, the phenom, Washinton’s Robert Griffin III AKA RG3?  This kid can do it all, throws the ball like a shot from a cannon, runs like Usain Bolt, and is big enough to take a hit with the rest of them.  I’m going with RG3 on this one, though I may change my mind tomorrow, probably not.

Then, at wide receiver I got my boy Victor Cruz who has shown his ability to lead the Giants to one Super Bowl already, :cheers: and hopefully to another this season.  But I am torn between two up-and-comers who have come on hot as of late and are really showing that they have the ability to perform at the highest level.  First we have a big, quick, athletic dude in Leonard Hankerson playing for the Redskins and will be taking his throws from my man RG3 all day, but he is a hit or miss type player.  I like his skill though and with the Redskin’s number one wide receiver banged up and maybe even sidelined tomorrow, I gotta like Hankerson’s chances here. On the other side of the coin I have the speedy, agile small man, Andrew Hawkins from Cincinnati who has the wiggles to beat any defender and is always a threat to score from anywhere on the field.  In three weeks, he has 208 yards and 2 TDs, both his touchdowns coming off of 50+ yard catches and he shock off multiple defenders along the way.  Now that is a tough decision!  Wife’s calling….

…I’m back.  I had to chop some jalapeno’s for the chili, Erica is scared to touch them any more because the last time they made the tips of her fingers feel like they were on fire.  I ate a seed…yummy!  Then I touched my ear, it stings.

Here’s a few pictures of what she is doing in there with this pumpkin chili.  Recipe to follow, its a good one and one of my wife’s family recipes, so don’t go telling everybody like I just did.

There is that jalapeno that is currently burning the inside of my ear, but when I came back to my computer, there was a beer sitting next to it, so that makes up for the pain.  Thanks hun.  Maybe I could pour some on my ear to make it feel better.  Funny though, lips aren’t burning. I can tell you one thing, this pumpkin chili smells amazing from where I’m sitting.  It better be good because its 8pm and I’m starving.

A few notes about this beer she left by my computer.  It is from Smuttynose Brewery in New Hampshire and it is their Old Brown Dog Ale.  It pours with a nice, inch thick head that quickly dissipates leaving you with a warm, deep caramel color that matches it’s smell plus the the added earthy tones.  The taste starts off with a nice woody malt which matures as it warms in your mouth and finishes with a nice, subtle hoppiness that is very welcome.  I think I’ll have another with dinner.

That’s it for now, I have bread dough that is ready to be turned out and baked to go with my wife’s pumpkin chili.  Check back tomorrow for the recipes and some real football talk.

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Filed under Chicken, Chili, Food, Football, Pumpkin

What is Football without Wings?

In lieu of weekly Thursday night games and the return of real referees, not the replacements the NFL jacked from Footlocker, today’s recipe is my personal favorite for football Sundays when I have a bunch of friends and family over.  I simply can not start a blog about football and food and not have the first recipe given be buffalo wings.  I have searched high and low for the best buffalo wings one can eat.  I’ve been to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo where they were invented and, while they were good, they were short of special – just wings and sauce (half butter, half franks red hot).  Then as a teenager I came to know Cluck-U-Chicken very well.  Their different take on Buffalo Wings – breaded, fried, with many different sauces of varying heat and sweetness – was new and refreshing and started me on my journey to craft my own favorite wings.  The last place I’ll mention is a little Irish Pub in Clark, NJ called Molly McGuires where their wings are nicely breaded and fried, sauced with a medium heat, slightly sweet sauce and for added texture you can ask for them “Pippen Style” and they will, after saucing them, throw them in the broiler to give them a great crunch – a perfect bite.  This gave me the last push of inspiration in perfecting my own wings and sauce.

To me, Buffalo Wings are more about the sauce and the quality of the Blue Cheese dressing used, than how the wings are prepared.  You can cook the wings and tenders to your personal preference and top with a tangy/hot sauce, then dip into a quality blue cheese dressing and you are still guaranteed an great snack to compliment and replenish the energy you will expel watching your favorite teams and fantasy players spend an hour at a time battling towards the Super Bowl.  Here are  a few ideas on how to prepare wings or chicken tenders along with my perfected sauce that even my wife loves.

Chicken:

For the chicken, you can grill, bake, or deep-fry your wing pieces depending on your personal preferences.

Grill on medium heat for 25-30 minutes, turning a few times to keep from burning.  Internal temperature should be 165 and there should be no pink in the chicken.  I start checking after 25 minutes.

Bake similarly at 375 degrees for 1 hour turning a once halfway through.  If you like crispier skin, you can crank up the heat and cook for less time.

Or you can deep-fry them.  I like to treat them like southern fried chicken and below you will find my recipe for fried chicken wings and fingers and Buffalo Sauce; below is the recipe for this.

Buffalo Chicken Wings (or Tenders)

Master ingredient list:

3 1/2 pounds of chicken wings with skin separated into drumettes and wingettes (or chicken tenders) thawed

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Table salt

2 tablespoons & Dash Sriracha Sauce

4 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 & 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups unbleached all-purpose (AP) flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon mustard powder

1 1/4 cup of vegetable oil

1/2 cup peanut oil

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

6 tablespoons of Franks Redhot Sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons habanero sauce (optional for heat)

3 tablespoons brown sugar

Step 1 Ingrediants – Buttermilk Brine:

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon sriracha sauce

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1) In a bowl, whisk together the above ingrediants.  Divide evenly into 2 or 3 one gallon plastic freezer bags.  Pour equal amounts of buttermilk mixture into each bag of chicken.  Seal bags and refrigerate overnight.  (You can make it same day, but the longer in the fridge, the better).

Step 2 Ingredients – Dredging

3 1/2 pounds chicken wing pieces with skin (or tenders) thawed

2 cups unbleached all-purpose (AP) flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

3/4 teaspoons smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon mustard powder

1/4 cup buttermilk

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the AP Flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, onion powder, and mustard powder.  Add 1/4 cup of buttermilk into the flour mixture and use your hands to mix and form small clumps.  Taking 3 or four pieces at a time, dredge wings (or tenders) in flour mixture, making sure to press the mixture on to chicken for an even thick coat.  Place pieces on a plate.

Step 3 Ingerdients – Frying

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

1/2 cup peanut oil

Heat oil to 375 degrees in cast iron pan (or deep-fryer; you may need more oil) over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, carefully drop chicken pieces into oil.  Cook 3-5 minutes until golden brown, flip and cook 3-5 minutes longer.  Internal temperature should be 165 and there should be no pink in the chicken.  Transfer to wire rack with large baking pan underneath.

Step 4 Ingredients – Saucing

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

6 tablespoons Franks Redhot Sauce

3 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons sriracha sauce

1 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons habanero pepper sauce (optional for heat)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium heat stirring continuously until butter is melted.  Adjust ingredients to taste – if it is too acidic add a little more brown sugar and butter, if it is too sweet add a little more franks hot sauce, if it is too spicy add a little more butter.  Let mixture simmer for a few minutes while stirring.  Toss with wings.  Enjoy with a quality blue cheese dressing.  My personal favorite is Brianna’s Homestyle True Blue Cheese.

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Filed under Chicken, Fantasy, Food, Football, Recipe

Of Football and Food

There are only a handful of pairs that are matched as well as Food is to Football – peanut butter and jelly, beer and pizza, socks and shoes, etc… But we’ve all have eaten pizza without drinking a beer, licked peanut butter off a spoon without having any jelly, worn socks when your feet are cold without shoes, and maybe even worn shoes without socks (I know I have).  But football without food, it’s something I’ve never done; and there are only a few things I have never done and I don’t think I’m willing to try.  First of all, Football Sunday is a long day packed full of action, upsets, joy, tears, and the occasional obscenity.  Secondly, Sundays in general are specifically family days for me and many others I know.  Most of my close friends and family members prefer not to work on Sundays, and refuse to work on Football-days (every Sunday starting in September and ending the first weekend of February).

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