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Friday, April 30, 2010


We've experimented with making naan, an Indian flat bread, at home. We don't have a tandoor, so it's not perfect yet. But this version makes a reasonable facsimile. It's quite simple. I've found the key is to roll the sections out as thin as humanly possible while still being able to handle the dough. Then Bob cooks it on the barbecue, basting it with olive oil infused with a little bit of garlic as he goes.


1 ¼ teaspoon yeast
½ cup warm water
4 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
¼ teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 ¼ cups bread flour
1 tsp. finely minced onion (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil mixed with 1 teaspoon minced garlic
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.

Punch the dough down and knead in the minced onion if you want onion-flavored naan. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat.

Roll each ball of dough out into an oblong shape. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with oil, and turn over. Brush cooked side with oil, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared. (Serves about 9)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Garam Masala

It's been awhile since I've discussed a favorite product. And since I'm going to be featuring Indian food over the next few posts, I thought talking a little bit about garam masala was essential. Wikipedia discusses this combination of spices as follows:

Garam masala from Hindi garam ("hot") and masala ("mixture") is a basic blend of ground spices common in Indian and other South Asian cuisines. It is used alone or with other seasonings. The word garam refers to spice intensity, not heat; garam masala is pungent, but not "hot" in the same way as a chili pepper.
In short, garam masala  makes cooking Indian food a snap (this is me talking now, not Wikipedia). You can, of course, make your own blend, but I do not. Different brands have different combinations of spices. Typical spices include cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg and coriander (along with various colors of ground pepper). I have found that prices for the same brand vary widely; the bottle of McCormick featured in the photo is about $11 at the grocery store closest to my house, and about half that at the local WalMart. My friend Laura recently scouted the newly opened Indian store in our community (Bollywood on University Avenue for those of you who are local) and got a remarkable quantity of the stuff for about $4. It appeared to be a somewhat different mix of spices, but smelled great. And that's one of the things you'll like best about this blend--the way it makes your house smell when you cook with it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Can you take one more spinach salad recipe? This one is truly a gem. I made it out of desperation one night when I needed to use up both spinach and strawberries. The dressing is unusual but very refreshing. It gets oohs and ahhs.

The original recipe calls for sliced almonds, which I think would be delicious. However, on the same day that I had spinach and strawberries to spare, I was fresh out of almonds but had plenty of pecans. I sugared them (put a cup of them in a sauce pan with 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar; cook on medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the nuts are coated. Then cool on a sheet of wax paper or foil until cooled).

Strawberry Spinach Salad
1 cup candied pecans
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 medium cucumber, sliced and quartered
1/4 small red onion, sliced into thin wedges
3-4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
6 to 8 cups baby spinach

Combine salad ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl. Then toss with the dressing:

1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon poppy seeds

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a lid; shake until well mixed. Pour over salad and toss well.

Serve immediately after adding the dressing.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Peanut Butter Fingers

I found this delicious little recipe on In My Kitchen. The author of that blog recounts her childhood memories of having this as part of a Utah school lunch. I am a native Utahn, and don't remember having them for lunch in elementary school (although I do remember some incredible peanut butter cookies, the only peanut cookies I would eat at that point in my life). But they are awfully good.

Warning: this recipe makes a lot of cookie bars. It's baked in a jelly roll pan, which we call a cookie sheet at our house. It's something like 16 x 9. So either make it when you're going to a very large gathering, or plan on having it around for a few days. I made it on Monday of this week (which was spring break), and we still had lingering leftovers by Thursday. It holds up well over time, though, and the kids were in heaven with readily available snacks all week.

Peanut Butter Fingers
3/4 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs

Cream these ingredients together and then add:

3/4 cup peanut butter, cream until smooth

Note: We used creamy peanut butter because we had a surplus of it and because the kids prefer chunky on their sandwiches. But I think chunky PB would work great, and would add a little nuttiness to the mix.

3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons vnilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups oats
1 1/2 cups flour

Mix together and pat down into a jellyroll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Let the cookie substance cool a little, but while it is still warm, spread a think layer of peanut butter over the top. After it has cooled quite a bit, add the frosting on top:

6 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
1/4 cup milk

Blend frosting until smooth and spread over cookies.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pasta Cordon Bleu

This recipe came from my friend Amy. I had every intention of taking her a healthy portion to sample, but it was so popular at our house that there was only a little left, and that after I shooed several kids away. This definitely isn't health food, but it's really, really good.

The original recipe called for even more of the good (but not good for you) ingredients. I scaled them back both according to what I had on hand and what seemed reasonable.

Pasta Cordon Bleu
1 pound package penne pasta
6 tablespoons butter
4 crushed garlic cloves
30 ounces chicken broth
3-4 tablespoons cornstarch
3 cups heavy cream
1 chicken breast
1 cup chopped ham
1/2 cup crumbled bacon
6 - 8 sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

Cook pasta. Drain. Saute and brown garlic and butter. Whisk cornstarch with chicken broth and add to pan. Stir until thickened. Add cream, stirring constantly, and heat through; do not boil. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Place noodles, chicken, ham, bacon, green onions, mushrooms, sauce and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

These aren't the most photogenic baked goods in the universe, but they are easy to make and quite tasty. I started with a recipe from, a cooking website that I like because it has multiple ways to search and there are often comments from people who have tried the recipe (besides the original poster).

Some of the comments on this recipe noted that the muffins were not particularly lemony. I added more lemon juice along with some lemon zest and was quite pleased with the result.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 large egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup cooking oil
6 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon sugar for the topping

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds; set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg, milk, and cooking oil. Then add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Mix liquids into the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into muffin tins that have either been well greased and floured or that are lined with muffin papers. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins generously with sugar; do not mix in the sugar, as it is what forms the crunchy top.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.