Slightly Cheaper Than Therapy

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I’m a Daring Baker!! November 26, 2007

Filed under: Breads,Daring Bakers — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 2:35 pm


A few months ago I decided it was time to kick my baking up a notch and join the Daring Bakers group.  Without sounding like a snot, I consider myself a pretty darn good baker.  But I tend to stick with the things I know how to do–cookies, cakes, pies.  I always think, “man I really should try the Lemon Scented Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce” but never seem to find the right occasion for such a treat.  So I figured the DB group would be a terrific force to knock me out of my ruts. 

When I saw this month’s selection I was really surprised.  In my mind baking always equals sweet, never savory.  What’s that saying?…Ask and ye shall receive?   And boy did I ever receive with the Daring Baker’s November selection–Tender Potato Bread.  Since I haven’t ventured much outside the sweet baking I obviously haven’t done too much bread baking.  Okay, that actually means I’ve never done any bread baking.  I remember a time during high school when my mom got her hands on a sourdough starter and made all sorts of sourdough concoctions.  But that’s basically my only exposure to bread baking. 

I was a little nervous when I started this project.  What if I failed miserably at my first DB challenge?  Luckily I didn’t and the bread turned out really really well, especially for a first time bread maker.  The host of this month’s challenge Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups kept reminding us that this is a very sticky dough, and I think my listening to her helped me bake a good first-time bread.  This dough was INCREDIBLY sticky, compared to the only doughs I’ve worked with before (pizza and pie crust).  And the big lumps of potatoes worried me as well, but it all seemed to melt together in the oven.  If you can let go of your preconceived ideas on what a finished dough should look like this is a relatively easy bread for first timers to make. 

Tender Potato Bread

10 oz. of peeled, chopped Dutch Butter Potatoes
4 cups water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 1/2 – 8 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour  (I used 7 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup whole wheat flour

Put the potatoes and 4 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook, half covered, until the potatoes are very tender.

Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well.

Measure out 3 cups of the reserved potato water (add extra water if needed to make 3 cups). Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread in – directions will be for by hand. Let cool to lukewarm – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.

Mix & stir yeast into cooled water and mashed potatoes & water and let stand 5 minutes.  Then mix in 2 cups of all-purpose flour and mix.  Allow to rest several minutes.  Sprinkle on the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1 cup whole wheat flour, stir briefly.  Add 2 cups of the unbleached all-purpose flour and stir until all the flour has been incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle; use a dough scraper to keep your surface clean. The kneaded dough will still be very soft.

As a beginner, you may be tempted to add more flour than needed. Most/many bread recipes give a range of flour needed. This is going to be a soft dough. At this point, add flour to the counter slowly, say a ¼ cup at a time. Do not feel you must use all of the suggested flour. When the dough is soft and smooth and not too sticky, it’s probably ready.

Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky.

Divide the dough into 2 unequal pieces in a proportion of one-third and two-thirds (one will be twice as large as the other). Place the smaller piece to one side and cover loosely.

To shape the large loaf:

Butter a 9X5 inch loaf/bread pan.  Flatten the larger piece of dough on the floured surface to an approximate 12 x 8 inch oval, then roll it up from a narrow end to form a loaf. Pinch the seam closed and gently place seam side down in the buttered pan. The dough should come about three-quarters of the way up the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 35 to 45 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled in volume.  Bake the large loaf for about 50 minutes at 350F.

To make rolls with the remainder:

Butter a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake pan or a shallow cake pan. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball under the palm of your floured hand and place on the baking sheet, leaving 1/2 inch between the balls. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 35 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled. 

Dust risen loaves and rolls with a little all-purpose flour or lightly brush the tops with a little melted butter or olive oil (I sprayed mine with olive oil cooking spray and sprinkled them with garlic salt to make garlic bread rolls). Slash loaves crosswise two or three times with a razor blade or very sharp knife and immediately place on the stone, tiles or baking sheet in the oven. Place the rolls next to the loaf in the oven.   Bake rolls until golden, about 30 minutes at 350F.

Transfer the rolls to a rack when done to cool. When the loaf or loaves have baked for the specified time, remove from the pans and place back on the stone, tiles or baking sheet for another 5 to 10 minutes. The corners should be firm when pinched and the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.


Easy Summer Grilling…in November…! November 20, 2007

Filed under: Grilling,Salad,Seafood — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 9:39 pm


 Last Friday I took off work at 2:30 and spent the afternoon enjoying a spa gift card (hello mud steamer massage and facial!!).  When I got home I was so completely relaxed that I probably looked like Peter from Office Space right after the hypnotist bit it.  Needless to say I was not up for making anything too taxing, and my latest Cooking Light find fit the bill perfectly.  Since we’re STILL “enjoying” 80 degree afternoons, I can say with confidence this would be a fantastic summer meal.  Fire up the grill and about 30 minutes later you’ll have a fantastic and extremely healthy dinner.  Better yet, invite some friends over and impress them with the visual display.  It’s so pretty they’ll think you slaved for hours, when actually you could’ve just rolled off the massage table and slapped the few ingredients together.  Oh and make them bring a good pinot grigio for all your efforts.  It goes so well with this. 

You could pair this with some grilled veggies, but the Hubby and I chose to recreate one of our favorite restaurant salads–the houe salad at Fish Daddies.  The dressing isn’t exactly what Fish Daddies serves, but it’s so darn close that I wouldn’t waste any time looking for a better sub.  This salad is a really stand up dish in and of itself.  So if you’re looking for a good main-course salad grill up some chicken or shrimp (little garlic, salt, pepper, maybe even a bit of tarragon) and add it into the mix.

Grilled Lemon Bay Shrimp

2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (This was a bit much.  I think I’ll cut it back to 1/4 tsp. next time)
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
32 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 1.5 lbs.)
32 fresh bay leaves
4 large lemons, each cut into 8 wedges
cooking spray

Prepare grill.  Spray with cooking spray.  Heat to approximately 400F. 

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl.  Add shrimp and toss to coat.  Cover and marinate in refrigerator for 10 minutes.  Thread 4 lemon wedges, 4 shirmp and 4 bay leaves alternately onto each of 8 (10″) skewers.  Place skewers on grill rack coated with cooking spray.  Grill 2 minutes on each side or until shrimp are done.

Fish Daddy’s House Salad

1 large bag of red and green romaine
Garlic & cheese croutons
Praline Pecans, chopped
1-2 small green apples sliced into matchsticks
Stonewall Kitchen’s Lemon Peppercorn Vinegarette

Divide salad evenly among small bowls.  Top with green apples, pecans and croutons heavy or light, depending on your taste.  We like lots of apples but fewer croutons.  Dress with 1 tablespoon of dressing.  A little bit of this goes a long way!


OH HAPPY DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!! November 14, 2007

Filed under: Cakes,Cheese — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 8:23 pm

Confectional Logo 

I love cheesecake.  I love it like Harry loved Sally.  Like Dolly loves her boobs.  Like Pauly Shore loves bad scripts.  It is the absolute perfect dessert for several reasons, but mainly because it uses cheese  and it’s a delightful combination of sweet and savory.  You know that vicious sweet-salty-sweet-salty cycle that inevitably occurs after good meals?  Cheesecake takes care of that.  It smacks that cycle around like a red-headed step child and sends it running in the other direction.  Take that vicious cycle!

All my life I have, for the most part, been content with plane-jane cheesecakes.  Why reinvent the wheel?  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…and on and on and on.  But then, while visiting Seattle this summer, my whole cheesecake world got turned upside down.  We were spending the afternoon roaming through Pike Place Market watching fish fly and smelling the gorgeous blooms, when I stumbled across The Confectional–a store devoted entirely to cheesecake and all its glorious forms.  It was like the mothership was calling me home.  And the choices!  Oh the choices!  Carmel…lemon…white chocolate…mocha…It was agony, indeed.  Finally the salesperson, whether charmed by my amazement or annoyed by my indecision I’ll never know, convinced me that the Lemon White Chocolate was the perfect cake for me.  And oh my gawd was she right.  It was heaven manifested in food form.  I was hooked and had to talk myself out of buying one of each mini-cake and immediately devouring the whole lot.  But I did manage to talk the Hubby into fighting PPM traffic before we returned to TX just so I could get another mini-cake. 

Mini-Cake Tray

Fast forward 4 cheesecake deprived months to today and what should I get in my inbox but an email from The Confectional.  I figured it was probably one of those “don’t forget to pick up your holiday cheesecake!” emails.  But it was better.  They just announced that they’ve started shipping orders to those of us in the rest of the continental US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Do you know what this means???  I can have my Lemon White Chocolate Cheesecake (and all the other delicious varieties) any old time I want!  I’ve already got plans for my T-Day desserts, and I think it might be too late to order for that anyway.  But Christmas.  Man oh man am I going to be in cheesecake heaven.  (AHEM:  Hubby take note). 

Check out their site (linked above) and most definitely order some of their wonderful cheesy, sugary goodness.  I swear on all the cheesecakes I have ever eaten and have yet to eat, you will LOVE their goodies.

 Oh and if you’re wondering, the photo of me that pops up when I leave comments is me underneath The Confectional’s sign at Pike Place Market.  :o)


A different kind of Sunday pie. November 12, 2007

Filed under: Breads,Pizza — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 3:03 am


The weekends are usually reserved for baking at my house.  I don’t like to be rushed and it seems like the week nights just don’t allow me enough time to meander my way through a recipe or 3.  But this weekend I decided to change it up a bit. 

 Actually, it’s not that I didn’t want to bake.  More like I had to fill a serious void in our fall/winter Sunday ritual.  See Sunday is all about the football in my house.  We literally don’t do a thing all day long.  By noon my butt’s in position on the chase, by 3:15 it’s a little numb, and by 7:30 the cushions and my cheeks have started to become one.  We almost always get take out for the night game, because I simply cannot be bothered to cook.  And since we don’t want to be gone from the TV for too long, take out usually means pizza from Papa Gino’s. 

This weekend would have been no different, if I hadn’t initiated The Pact.  After glancing over our expenses last month, it didn’t take a financial analyst to see that we’d eaten out waaaaaaaaaaaay too much.  So the Hubby and I made a pact:  no eating out till after Thanksgiving.  No problem!  Two and a half weeks will be a piece of cake!  Oh how naive we were.  It’s been a week with no take out and I seriously wonder if we’ll make ith through the next 11 days.  That’s 33 meals people!!  I should be ashamed of how weak we are. 

So I really was left with no option but to pull out my homemade pizza recipes.  Unlike The Pact, Sunday night pizza is non-negotiable.  And if I do say so myself, my pizza is pretty damn good.  But the thing that keeps it from reaching mythical status is the crust.  Everything I’ve tried always comes out kinda limp and never really browns up.  And limp and pale never make a good combination.  Period.  I’d heard quite a few good reviews of Giada’s basic thin crust pizza recipe, so I thought I’d give it a shot.  Wow.  Now I know why this woman has her own show.  This stuff was fantastic!  Crisp on the outside, but oh-so-tender on the inside.  Combined with my pizza sauce, this very well could be the best pizza that’s ever graced my kitchen. 

Giada’s Pizza Crust 

3/4 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
1 envelope active dry yeast

2 cups (or more) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil

Pour 3/4 cup warm water into small bowl; stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Brush large bowl lightly with olive oil. Mix 2 cups flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add yeast mixture and 3 tablespoons oil; process until dough forms a sticky ball. Transfer to lightly floured surface. KNEAD dough until smooth, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is very sticky, about 1 minute. Transfer to prepared bowl; turn dough in bowl to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. PUNCH down dough. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Store in airtight container in refrigerator. ROLL out dough according to recipe instructions. (Start in center of dough, working outward toward edges but not rolling over them.)

Polly’s Pizza Sauce

1-15 oz. can of tomato sauce
1-10 oz. can of tomato puree
1 tablespoon of honey
3 tablespoons of parmesan
1 large clove of garlic, minced
3/4 tsp. of onion powder
1/4 tsp. of oregano
1/4 tsp. of basil
1/8 tsp. of cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
Salt to taste
1 tsp. of dried parsley

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  You can use immediately, but the sauce gets better the longer it sits and the flavors meld.  Makes enough for 2 pizzas, maybe 3 if you don’t like a lot of sauce.

Top rolled out pizza dough with 1 cup of sauce, then 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and desired toppings.  Spray crust with olive oil cooking spray and sprinkle with garlic salt (to taste). 

Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese bubbles. 


Kinda Like a Mexican Grilled Cheese Sandwich…But Better. November 6, 2007

Filed under: Mexican,Seafood — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 3:33 pm

When you grow up in Texas it’s hard not to love Mexican food.  It’s almost as ubiquitous as BBQ.  And if you live in Austin, you will find queso on every menu.  And I mean every single menu in town.  Even the local philly cheesestake places serve it.  If you can, for five seconds or more, tear yourself away from the cheesy goodness of Tex-Mex and cultivate a taste for authentic Mexican food, then you really have discovered heaven on earth.  This dish falls somewhere in between.  It’s got the cilantro and heavy onion I’m used to seeing in Tex-Mex, but it’s missing some form of chili con carne and lots of grease.  And it doesn’t entirely remind me of interior Mexican either, though the lack of grease allows the flavors of the individual ingredients shine through.  Maybe costal Mexican, if there is such a thing…?  Regardless, this dish is so good and so light that I don’t think it matters what category you lump it into. 

This recipe is also my first foray into Cate at Sweetnick’s ARF/5-A-Day blogging event.  Yay for healthy eating!!

Confetti Quesadillas
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 tablespoon of butter
1 c. of chopped onion
1 c. of corn kernels
1 garlic clove, minced
2/3 c. chopped tomato
1 1/2 tsp. of minced, seeded jalapeno pepper
1/2 lb. of medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1/2-3/4 tablespoon of dried cilantro (I used more this time, and it was a bit much.  Next time, I’ll cut back to this amount.)
1/4 tsp. salt
8-8 inch fat free flour tortillas
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Heat butter in a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add onions, corn and garlic and saute 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes and pepper and saute 4 minutes.  Add shrimp, lemon juice, cilantro and salt and saute 3 minutes.  Remove mixture from skillet and keep warm.

Place one tortilla in a skillet over medium heat, and top with 1/4 c. of cheese.  Spoon 1/2 c. of shrimp mixture over cheese.  Top with a tortilla.  Cook 3 minutes, pressing down with a spatula until cheese melts.  Turn carefully and cook an additional minute.  Cut each quesadilla into 4 triangles and serve with salsa. 


It’s outta my hands. November 4, 2007

Filed under: Cookbooks,Cookies — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 7:38 pm


It must be in the cards.  How else can you explain HEB’s in-store coupon that got me a free can of pumpkin when I bought any variety of Hershey’s chips?  It was like the gods wanted me to make this. 

A few weeks ago I ran across bigfatcookies by Elinor Klivans at our local bookstore (BookPeople).  Early in my baking life I solidified my theory on cookie making:  Go big or go home.  So without even checking out the recipes inside, I knew this cookbook was coming home with me.  After reading through it, I discovered there were at least a dozen recipes I wanted to try.  Some old favorites, made new with a twist and some completely new.  That’s where this weekend’s baking comes in.  The Pumpkin Butterscotch Chip Cookies sounded heavenly, and when I ran across the coupon, I knew it was destiny.  This would be my baking project for Sunday.

And these cookies are very, very good.  I was surprised at how well the pumpkin and butterscotch go together.  The only thing that keeps these cookies from reaching OMFG status is that they’re a bit too cakey for my tastes.  Even the Hubby agreed that they were more like muffin tops than cookies.  I may tinker around a bit with the elements and see if I can come up with something a bit denser.  I think I might add another 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon too, but I’m a big fan of cinnamon.  So until then, I present…

 Pumpkin Butterscotch Chip Cookies


2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil (the book specifies canola or corn, but I only had veggie on hand)
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. butterscotch chips.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 325F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and butter the paper.  (I forgot to butter mine, and it came out just fine.)  Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together in a medium bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 min.  ON low speed, mix in the oil, pumpkin and vanilla until blended.  Mix in the flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Mix in the butterscotch chips by hand.

Using an ice cream scoop with a 1/4 c. capacity (or a 1/4 measuring cup), scoop out mounds of dough onto the parchment paper, spacing the cookies at least 2 inches  apart. 

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted comes out dry (about 16 minutes).  Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Dust cooled cookies with powdered sugar.  Store in a tightly sealed container for up to 4 days.

The book says you get about 14 cookies, but I only ended up with 13. 


For your visual pleasure…

Filed under: chocolate — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 7:35 pm

This weekend I visited another girlfriend of mine who just recently had a baby.  I didn’t want to go empty handed, so I whipped up a batch of Balls of Goodness.  These are so easy, and I’ve yet to meet a person who isn’t mesmerized by their deliciousness.  And on top of all that, who doesn’t deserve some Balls of Goodness more than a brandy new mommy?  The Hubby saw me making them and declared that he’d willingly push a baby out of his body, if that meant I’d make these for him more often.  :o)

 Anyway, the only reason I bring this up is because this time I got the white chocolate to actually melt into a usable substance and wanted to share their beauty with you.  See?  Aren’t the cute??