Archive for November, 2008


I’m lucky enough to have a co-worker who brews his own beer… but not for the reason you may immediately think.

Lucky because whenever he makes a fresh batch, he gives me his spent grain – what’s left of the grain after the beer-making process. Here’s what it looks like:


That bag was from a batch of oatmeal stout – it’s a little darker than the usual grains he gives me…. and it made a GREAT batch of bread. Spent grain bread is incredibly healthy, and this recipe produces a slightly-sweet bread (from the honey) with a nice, deep bread flavor (from the soaker and biga). It’s more dense than the average white loaf, but still manages to have a great soft texture.

This recipe makes 2 loaves – I kept one at home and brought the other one into work for a Thanksgiving potluck – it got rave reviews and went very very quickly!

If you’re going to make it, keep in mind that it’s a 2-day process, so you’ll need to plan ahead.
Spent Grain Bread
adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads

Day 1:


454g (1lb) white whole wheat flour
8g (1 teaspoon) salt
1 1/2 cups water

Mix all ingredients until flour is completely hydrated. Cover and let it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Then, put it in the refrigerator, where it can stay for up to 3 days.


454g (1lb) white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water

Make a well in the flour. Pour the water into the well and then sprinkle the yeast into the water. Mix the water, gradually drawing in the flour until it is fully hydrated. Once you have a ball of dough, knead it in the bowl with wet hands for about 2 minutes. Be careful not to add too much extra water to the dough.

Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, and then knead again by hand for about one minute. This time, the dough will be slightly easier to work with (but still very sticky). Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Here’s my soaker and biga, on day 2. (soaker is on the left):


Day 2:

(Remove the biga from the refrigerator about 2 hours before starting to mix the final dough)

225g spent grain
113g all-purpose flour
10g (2 1/4 teaspoon) salt
1 1/2 tablespoons instant dry yeast
85g (4 1/2 teaspoons) honey
2 tablespoons olive oil

Using a bench scraper, chop the soaker and biga into about 12 smaller pieces each. Sprinkle some extra flour to keep them from sticking to each other. Hydrate the yeast in a little warm water (just enough to form a thick paste). Add to the biga and soaker pieces along with the remaining ingredients. Mix with a spoon or knead with wet hands for a few minutes to evenly distribute all ingredients. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface (it will be very sticky). Knead for 3-4 minutes – it will be difficult to work with, but resist the urge to add too much flour (you don’t want the finished loaf to be too dense). Form the dough into a ball and let it rest on the counter for 5 minutes.


Knead the dough again for about a minute. Place it into a lightly oiled bowl, covering it in oil on all sides. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes.

Once risen, divide the dough in two using a bench scraper. Form into two loaves. Cover loosely and let rise for an additional 45 to 60 minutes.


Before going into the oven… The recipe didn’t tell me to slash the loaves – but I did anyway.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Add a steam pan to the oven. When you put the bread into the oven, add a cup of water to the pan and shut the door. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes. Then rotate the bread and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

Cool on wire rack (don’t cut into it for at least 1 hour).


Read Full Post »


Yesterday I made a big pot of borscht. I don’t like borscht (I hate beets) but Stas (of course) LOVES it, so he was a very happy man.

Whenever I make borscht, I end up with leftover beets and carrots. They usually just sit in my fridge for awhile, and eventually go bad. In addition to beets, I hate carrots… so I’m never motivated to actually use them – and I don’t know many recipes that call for them (besides borscht).

Until tonight…

I recently subscribed to Eating Well Magazine, through my Delta frequent flier miles. I’m not sure if I actually like the magazine yet, but I did get one good recipe out of this issue. And now I know exactly what to do with leftover beets or carrots!

Shredded Beet and Carrot Pancakes
from Eating Well, November/December 2008

1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons chopped scallions
1 tablespoon fresh dill (plus more for garnish)
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups peeled and shredded beets and/or carrots
oil, for frying (I used sunflower oil)
sour cream, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Combine egg, flour, scallions, dill, horseradish, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in vegetables.

3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook 4 pancakes per batch: place about 1/4 cup beet/carrot mixture into pan and flatten with a spatula (flatten so that they are 2 or 3 inch pancakes). Cook until crispy and golden, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Finish the remaining pancakes. When finish pan-frying, transfer them to the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Garnish with sour cream and dill.

Serves 6 (2 pancakes per person)

imgp3675 imgp3671

Read Full Post »


This tart is good. Really really good! I don’t normally try stuff like this when I make it (I prefer to stick to healthy eating), but this was absolutely irresistable!

Today at work we had a pre-Thanksgiving potluck. I’m known for being a great cook/baker, so I couldn’t disappoint. When I saw this recipe from Gourmet magazine, I knew it was the one.

The recipe seems long and complicated (at least it did to me when I first saw it), but it’s surprisingly simple and doesn’t require a lot of ingredients. The only things I needed to go out and buy was heavy cream and chocolate graham crackers.

The tart is basically three layers of chocolate: a chocolate crust, a truffle-like dark chocolate filling, and a dark-chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Glazed Chocolate Tart
from Gourmet, September 2008


for crust:


  • 9 (5”x2 1/4”) chocolate graham crackers, finely ground (1 cup)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar

for filling:


  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 9 ounces bittersweet (not more than 65% cacao) chocolate, chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

for glaze:


  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 3/4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon warm water

1. Make the crust:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, with rack in the middle.
Stir together all ingredients and press evenly onto the bottom and sides of a 9” tart pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a rack for 15 to 20 minutes.

imgp3629baked tart crust

2. Make the filling:

Bring cream to a boil, then pour it over chocolate in a bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Gently stir until smooth. Whisk together eggs, vanilla, and salt in another bowl, then stir into melted chocolate.

Pour filling into cooled crust and bake until filling is set about 3 inches from the edge, but center is still wobbly, 20-25 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack, about 1 hour. (Center will continue to set as tart cools)

imgp3636chopped chocolate… mmmmm

3. Make Glaze:

Bring cream to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in chocolate until smooth. Stir in corn syrup, then stir in warm water.

Pour glaze into tart, then tilt and rotate the tart so that the glaze coats the top evenly. Let stand until the glaze is set, about 1 hour.

imgp3642(a little blurry)

… and a few more for your chocolate-loving enjoyment…



Read Full Post »


It was another chicken night. But this time, it wasn’t so quick… this recipe calls for a 2-hour buttermilk marinade.

I had about a cup of buttermilk left over from the fresh butter I made this past weekend, and I don’t make buttermilk pancakes or any other “traditional” buttermilk recipes, so I was on a hunt for a recipe that combined chicken and buttermilk, for savory main dish.

So what does the buttermilk do to the chicken?

Here’s a good explanation: marinades

And did it work?

Yes! My chicken was jucier than usual… and the addition of tarragon made it very tasty. I don’t usually cook with tarragon, so it was a nice change.

Chicken Scaloppine with Tarragon
adapted from Cooking Light

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil


1. Place chicken breasts between plastic wrap and pound each until they are of uniform thickness (around 1/2 inch thick)

2. Combine chicken and buttermilk in a large sealable plastic bag. Refrigerate for 2 hours, turning bag occasionally. After 2 hours, remove chicken from bag and discard marinade and bag.


3. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt. Combine flour, tarragon, and flour in a shallow bowl. Dredge chicken in flour mixture and shake off the excess. Set aside.

4. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook 3-5 minutes on each side, or until done.

Serves 2

I served mine topped with sauteed mushrooms (shittake and crimini), seasoned with salt and more tarragon.

Read Full Post »


No, this is not a cooking post. It’s a celebratory post!

This weekend, Stas and I went to Jumptown (his dropzone) for their annual end-of-year banquet. It was a long and rainy drive, and the food wasn’t good (a limited selection of sauce and stuffing-heavy buffet food) but dressing up was fun and STAS GOT AN AWARD!!!

What’s the award for?…

On June 30, 2008 (ouranniversary is June 30!), Stas completed 12 hours of freefall!

This may not sound like a very long time, but it took him 900 jumps to get there. (By now, he’s nearing 1000 jumps)

It takes the average skydiver ~720 jumps to get to 12 hours of freefall.

So does this mean that Stas sucks and is way behind the other jumpers?


He actually has the U.S. record for fastest freefall in competition!!!
(He set it in May 2005 at the World Cup in Spa, Belgium… 468.70 km/hr (291.24 mph). This is an average speed over a vertical kilometer.)

Because he’s so fast, he’s only in freefall for about 40 seconds per jump (compared to the average skydiver at 60 seconds per jump)

Yes, I’m bragging – but I’m very proud of my Stas! 🙂

Read Full Post »


There’s a lot of beef stew left – which means we have a few nights of leftovers ahead of us. But I also had some chicken breasts in the fridge that I needed to use up… so I gave Stas a night off from the stew and went with the chicken

This is a very very simple recipe that I made up on the fly. I have a whole bunch of nuts in my pantry from various baking adventures, and I like using my mini food processor – that’s how this recipe was born.

The final verdict? Yummy!

Walnut-Crusted Chicken Breasts

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
ground black pepper
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4-1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Place chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound until they are of uniform thickness. Season each breast with salt and pepper on each side.

2. Place walnuts and flour in food processor and pulse until the walnuts are completely ground up. Pour into a bowl or onto a plate.


3. Dredge each chicken breast in the flour/walnut mixture, making sure they are well-coated.

4. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chicken breasts and cook until golden-brown on each side, about 10 minutes total, depending on thickness. Serve.

imgp3605Serves 2

I served Stas’ with a bunch of pasta and some fresh red peppers and radishes… and his vitamin!


Yes, that’s a lot of pasta, but he’s a jerk and doesn’t gain weight like normal people :p

Read Full Post »


I haven’t always liked beef stew. In fact, up until a few weeks ago, I absolutely hated it!

Stas, on the other hand, LOVES beef stew.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I used to make him a reallllly lazy version of beef stew, using a McCormick seasoning packet and already-cut beef stew cubes. He thought it was very tasty and asked for it often, but I always felt wrong making it that way.

About a month or so ago – under a combination of guilt and the store being out of the McCormick packet (mostly the latter 🙂 ), I tried a homemade version for the first time… it was so good that I fell in love with it… ME! The girl who always HATED beef stew!!!

It’s an easy recipe – just about as easy as the packet version. It just takes a little more time and requires that you have a few more ingredients on hand. No biggie.

imgp3601what’s not to love???!

Shushka’s Beef Stew
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

3 lb. chuck-eye roast, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped coarse (1-2 cups, depending on preference)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup red wine (I used Yellow Tail Shiraz)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

Step 1: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place beef cubes in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in large oven-safe dutch oven. Add beef in two separate batches. Brown meat on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch, adding more oil if needed. Remove meat and set aside.


Add onions to the now-empty dutch oven and sautee until almost softened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic; sautee about 30 seconds longer.


Stir in flour; cook until lightly colored, 1-2 minutes. Add wine, scraping up the browned bits stuck to the bottom. Add stock, bay leaves, and thyme; bring to simmer. Add meat; return to simmer. Cover and place in oven; simmer for 1 hour.

Step 2: Remove kettle from oven, add potatoes and carrot; cover, and return to oven. Cook for 1 more hour. Remove stew from oven.

Step 3: Add peas and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve.

Serves 6 to 8


As with most stews, this one gets better as it sits – it’s great on the first day, but even better on the second, third, etc.

The liquid is also great over pasta or white rice!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »