Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Enjoy local strawberries

I love strawberry season and all the yummy things it brings: shortcakes, pies, ice cream.

I enjoy picking my own right here in Wilson and eating them in the field when they’re at their very best — still a little warm from the sunshine.

Already this season we have had our share of berries at my house, and once again, I’ve been combing cookbooks and websites for new ways to enjoy strawberries, which, by the way, are packed with Vitamin C and are a good source of dietary fiber and potassium.

The new recipe I tried this year is from Debbi Covington. Debbi is from Wilson County but now works as a caterer in Beaufort, S.C. She shared with me a recipe for strawberry bread. Debbi said she likes the bread with a salad but said it would also be very good with morning coffee.

I had my first slice Monday afternoon, a few hours after it came out of the oven, and was thrilled with how well it turned out. It was just as delicious the next day for my morning snack.

I’m not a big fan of cooked strawberries, and I wondered if I’d really like Debbi’s recipe. But this bread is delicious! I love the pretty color, for starters, and the cinnamon is a nice complement to the flavorful berries. The pecans also add a nice touch.

Debbi’s recipe makes two loaves of bread. I halved the recipe and only made one loaf but wished I had made two. This would be a wonderful bread to share with a neighbor or co-workers.

Sea Island Strawberry Bread
  • 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2 cups sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour*
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 (9x5-inch) loaf pans. Place the strawberries in a bowl. Sprinkle with a little sugar and set aside (to draw out juices). In another bowl, combine sugar with the flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Mix well. Combine the oil and eggs with the strawberries, then stir them into the flour mixture. Add the pecans and stir until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool completely in the pans on a wire rack. Serves 16, 8 slices per loaf.

From ‘Dining Under the Carolina Moon’ by Debbi Covington

* I used self-rising flour and omitted the salt and baking soda. I also cut the recipe in half, making just one loaf.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Simple casserole

I have a super-simple casserole recipe for you today.

We love broccoli casseroles at my house, but I confess, I don’t make them often. I’ve had several recipes over the years, some with only three or four ingredients, others with a long list. When I was first married, I often made a broccoli casserole with water chestnuts. It was so good, and I always felt a sense of accomplishment when I made it!

I haven’t run across that recipe in years. It’s probably tucked away in a recipe folder I no longer use.

Today’s recipe reminds me of that long-ago recipe. I made it last week, after I got home from work. The prep time is minimal on this, especially if you use a microwave bag of rice rather than cooking rice on the stove. Just mix the ingredients and let it cook while you put together the rest of the meal.

Don’t let the ease of preparation fool you. This is a delicious recipe. And although it’s delicious for a weeknight meal, it would be just as good for company and a perfect dish to take to a covered dish dinner.

If you read my column regularly, you know I get my recipe ideas from many sources. This one came from thebigmamablog.com. I’m a regular reader of this blog, which seldom has recipes. But, when retrieving her delicious chocolate frosting recipe recently, I ran across this broccoli casserole recipe and stashed it in my memory to try soon.

I made few changes to this recipe. I did use a pouch of Uncle Ben’s brown rice, and next time I will cut the amount of butter to 2 tablespoons instead of four. It’s good and buttery with the half stick of butter, but I think it will be just fine with less. I also used Healthy Request cream of mushroom soup with lower sodium, lower fat.

My daughter suggested I put a crumb topping on the casserole the next time. I’m sure it would be good that way, but, honestly, it was just delicious without it!

Broccoli Rice Casserole
  • 1 medium onion chopped and sauteed in 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 packages of frozen, chopped broccoli cooked according to package instructions and drained (I bought the small boxes)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup, lower-sodium, lower-fat
  • 1 pouch Uncle Ben’s brown rice, cooked in microwave according to package instructions.
  • 1 8 oz. jar of Cheez Whiz
Combine all ingredients and bake at 350 in a greased 9X13 baking dish for 1 hour.

Adapted from thebigmamablog.com

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rolls for Easter dinner

Will you be making a special dinner for Easter?

I can recall many special Easter meals at the home of my Aunt Margaret. I always looked forward to her delicious ham and vegetables and special side dishes from potato salad to sweet pickled peaches. And she always made the best rolls. Gotta love homemade rolls.

I can’t make any bread to match those delicious, tender rolls, but I do enjoy making breads.

A few weeks back, I stumbled upon a website from a woman who also likes to bake breads, using her bread machine for mixing and rising. I do the same thing. I’ve never especially liked the taste of bread baked in my machine — which is now at least 15 years old, I think! But I love the convenience of having a machine prepare the dough which I can form into loaves or rolls or pizza crust.

Since I found the website salad-in-a-jar.com last month, I’ve made rolls three times — and my family has devoured them three times, not believing their luck at getting homemade rolls so often. These rolls would be so good with Easter dinner, alongside the ham and green beans and sweet potato casserole. You can make them on Saturday, wrap them in foil and heat them in a warm oven just before eating.

Paula Rhodes is behind the salad-in-a-jar site and told me by email that she has made these rolls hundreds of time.

“Could do it in my sleep,” she said.

What led me to make Paula’s rolls was probably her video, showing how she forms her rolls by first dividing the dough into 16 relatively equal pieces, then tucking the dough under each dough ball to create fairly uniform rolls. I really wanted to try her method and thought I could be successful after watching her, and I was!

I’ve never been able to make pretty rolls until I watched Paula’s video. I know mine aren’t perfect, but they look so much better than any others I have made.

Of course, the recipe has a lot to do with the success of these rolls. I did a blend of bread flour and whole wheat flour and made rolls that rose perfectly and cooked to a golden brown.

Paula has many variations of her bread recipes on her blog.

“I make the cheesy rolls most often as my family goes crazy for them,” she said. “Also cinnamon rolls, orange rolls and the rum raisin rolls.”

When I made the rolls the second time, I did half the recipe as cinnamon rolls, and they were crazy good. I just rolled out the risen dough, sprinkled on plenty of cinnamon and brown sugar and then rolled up the dough like a jelly roll and cut the rolls into eight pieces and let them rise. I added a glaze made of powdered sugar, vanilla and milk to the top after they had baked and were partially cooled. They were so good!

Paula and I agree on what motivates us to bake yeast breads for our families:

“What I enjoy about making homemade rolls is all the comments when people smell them baking and then argue over the last one,” she said.

Take time to visit Paula’s blog. Check out her bread recipes as well as her technique of preparing salad in a jar. You can find her video on shaping rolls under her recipes tab: white whole wheat dinner rolls, plus a video tutorial about shaping rolls.

White Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream and 3/4 cup nonfat milk, warmed (see note below)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 cups white whole wheat flour, or 1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cup unbleached flour, or 1 cup whole wheat flour and 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast
Place all ingredients into pan of bread machine in order given.

Select dough cycle. After 5 to 10 minutes, raise lid and make sure dough is correct consistency. This is best described as dough that sticks to the side of the pan, then pulls away. Add additional flour or water, if needed.

When dough has completed dough cycle and risen to double its original size, remove dough to a floured work surface.

Divide dough into 16 equal pieces. See video for instructions for rolling into balls. Arrange into two 8 or 9-inch pans. Cover loosely and set in a warm place until rolls almost double in size.

Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Loosen rolls from pan and flip to turn the rolls out onto a cooling rack or towel. Leaving the rolls in the pan until cool will result in soggy bottoms.

Makes 16 rolls.

Notes: I suggest using baking pans with a dark finish to help the rolls brown on the bottom. These rolls are delicious made with any kind of milk. Use whatever you have on hand.

Paula Rhodes