Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bloomin' Onions

I hate to admit it, but I was born with a genetic defect in my thumb.  Speaking more specifically, I was born with a black thumb.  And it is not just me.  My mother has some wonderful talents, but even she will admit gardening is not one of them.  Thankfully, my husband's family are avid gardeners and have shed some light on this unknown world for me.

I figured I would start out easy with an herb garden, and I have to say that it is one thing in my life that really brings me joy.  It gives me such a sense of accomplishment to watch my little plants grow and also since one of my passions is cooking, I love that I get to use them in so many of my recipes.  As a matter of fact, I have been tossing around the idea of combining one of my herbs and things I have learned about it along with a recipe that I most use it for/showcases it best.  Sorry... getting ahead of myself.

The point is: my herbs make me happy.  Moving on...

One day as I was browsing through pinterest, I found a link that said "Never buy scallions again."  When I read the blog, I was shocked that I had not thought of it before.  Basically, all it said was to:

A. Buy scallions from your local grocery store (When I bought them from our Kroger, they were 69 cents for a bunch)
B. Put them in a glass of water by a sunny window for 3 days to root them
C. Plant them

Easy as that!  Mine have gone crazy!  I don't typically do this, but a few weeks ago I saw some buds appearing, and I just had to see what the flowers looked like.  Oh, and no... the scallions did not grow to the top of our fence.  That would be called an optical illusion, my friend ; )




I was telling my mom about growing these scallions, and she asked me the question, "Well, what if you want to use the white part of the onion?"  I have thought about this question for a week or so, and what I would do would be unroot the scallion, cut the top part of the scallion, leaving the bulb of the plant intact.  Next, I would replant the bulb with a little bit sticking out of the dirt, and wait for it to grow.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Homemade Bread



Hello.  My name is Emilee Milling, and I am addicted to carbs, but my serious love is bread.  It is always my favorite part of the meal whether it be yeast rolls, cornbread, southern biscuits, or Texas toast.  Over the years, I have tried to make my own bread several times, but I never got it quite right.  It was such a tedious process that took a huge chunk of time.  

I remember one time I wanted to make my then boyfriend, now husband some delicious homemade bread.  I worked all day on it, and when the bread came out of the oven it smelled wonderful.  With my excitement building, I drew out my bread knife and began to cut into the bread... It was hard as a rock.  Little did I know, but early on, my water had been too hot and killed my poor, little yeast friends.  Matt was a champ and told me how yummy it was.  "It's okay, sweetie.  You just have to chew a little more.  See?  It's good!" 

Earlier this year, I found a recipe for bread on the Le Creuset website that was so easy, anyone could do it.  Of course, I didn't believe them, but thought it might be worth a try, and an added bonus, I got to use my new Le Creuset pots I got for wedding presents.  I realize that not everyone has these enameled cast irons because they are pretty pricey.  I found a few that are a different brand that are not quite expensive, and I am sure, work just as well.  You can find them at Belk that are Cooks Tools brand or at Target by the wonderful Giada DeLaurentiis, and they are around $70.

I use this bread to make sandwiches and also for a quick breakfast.  I actually don't even buy bread from the supermarket anymore.  It is that good!  Matt and I went to a work party, and all of his co workers knew me as "the girl who makes the bread!"  When I asked him about it, he said, "I am the envy of everyone in the lunch room.  They always comment on how good my lunches look."  So here is the recipe that is the secret to my wifey success:



Put 3 cups of flour to a large mixing bowl


Add 1 3/4 teaspoons of salt and...


1/2 teaspoon of yeast.  
Wisk the dry ingredients together until they are well mixed.  Now, this decision is up to you.  You can add 1 1/2 cups of water, and you have a really good, basic bread recipe.  I have a tendency to get bored with plain bread, so I add in things that I love to enhance the bread.


This bread has a clove of garlic and cheddar cheese,


This bread has cinnamon, orange zest, and dried blueberries

Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and let it rise for 12-18 hrs.  I usually mix everything up the night before I bake the bread.  It literally takes 5 minutes to stir everything together.  The next morning, I bake our beautiful creation.  The smell of fresh bread is a wonderful start to the day!


Put your empty cast iron pans into the oven at 450 degrees for 30 minutes to make sure the bread is cooked evenly.


Poof!  It rose!  It still surprises me


Hey! So did this one!


Now take a second to smell your bread at this stage... oh my goodness, it smells fantastic!


Look at all of those lovely specks of cinnamon floating around in there


Sprinkle a cutting board or counter with flour


Pour your dough onto the floured surface


and form a loaf.  Don't you feel like a professional baker?


Place your dough into your preheated cast iron pot and cover it


Do the same thing with your other loaf if you are making two


Bake your bread with the lid on for 30 minutes


This part is always a tease.  It looks good enough to eat, but you can't do it yet!


Take the lid off and bake it for another 10 minutes


Perfection!


This bread looks so crispy and there is absolutely no oil or butter!  I still have no idea how it gets this crispy!



Place your loaves on a cooling rack.  If you let the bread cool all the way before cutting it, the bread will stay moist longer, but if you just cannot wait, I totally understand.  In my case, the bread is eaten way before it gets a chance to dry out.

Homemade Bread
3 cups of flour (all purpose or unbleached bread flour)
1 3/4 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of yeast
1 1/2 cups of water

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and yeast.  Pour in the water and if you are adding anything, put it in now.  Stir everything until you get a continuous mixture.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise for 12-16 hours.  
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Put your cast iron in the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the dutch oven and put the dough in the pan with the lid on top.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Take the lid off and continue to bake for 10 more minutes.  Remove from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack.

These are a few combinations I have tried that have been super delicious:
Dried cranberries and orange juice/zest
Cinnamon raisin bread (I also added about 1/4 cup of brown sugar)
Rosemary, asiago cheese, and lemon zest
Lemon zest, poppy seeds, and sunflower seeds
Parmesan and cracked black pepper

These are a few combinations I want to try and haven't yet:
Pesto bread: basil, parmesan, pepper, garlic
White chocolate cherry bread: white chocolate chips and dried cherries
Jalepeno and cheddar bread: jarred jalepenoes and sharp cheddar

I hope you enjoy this recipe!  No one will believe that you made it yourself, and only you will know how easy it is!