Old Country Potato Dill Bread

FullSizeRenderTo keep homemade bread tasting just-from-the-oven-fresh, do what your great-grandmother did, and add leftover mashed potatoes to the batch of dough. I’ve been making this recipe since 1990-something, after running across it in a Country Home magazine (read while waiting for my son at the orthodontist, if I remember right…), but I rarely have mashed taters leftover from a meal. So I follow the instructions below for boiling up potatoes to make the dough.

(Disclaimer: No, I did not steal a magazine from the orthodontist’s office. I politely asked the receptionist if she’d make a copy of the recipe for me, rather than tearing it out and ruining some other mother’s day by leaving behind a mutilated magazine. The receptionist looked at me like I had two heads, but copied it off anyway. Apparently not a lot of people request copies of recipes while at the orthodontist, huh!)

FullSizeRender-1Now to confess the REAL reason I write this blog. I’m selfish. I want all my recipes in one, handy, organized place, so I don’t have to search through a gazillion cookbooks, and dig in piles of old newspaper and magazine clippings to unearth my tried-and-true favorites. Since I’ve been posting for over a year, I was shocked and surprised when I couldn’t find the potato bread recipe after searching for tags like “potato” and “dill.” How could I not have posted this treasure yet!?! This is far and away my three son’s fave bread. They loved it as an after school snack when they were kids, slathered in peanut butter. They love it with meals as adults, with butter, or without. It’s so moist, it doesn’t even need butter to be the best bread ever.

And what goes perfect with this bread? Sweet-tart Strawberry Rhubarb jam, recipe to come later this week when I make my annual batch.

Makes 3 loaves

Sponge (another name for “starter”):
2½ teaspoons active dry yeast
½ cup all-purpose flour *
½ cup warm water (at least 100° Fahrenheit)

2 medium red potatoes, peeled
3¼ cups all-purpose flour *
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
1½ teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

To make starter: Combine yeast and water in medium bowl, and stir in water until all ingredients are combined and no dry patches of flour remain. Set starter in a sink filled with 2 inches of hot water. Let rise 20 minutes. (Or overnight—the recipe suggests that it makes for a more flavorful bread as it gathers more mold spores that way. I’ve never done this, so I can’t vouch for an enhanced flavor for your efforts!)

To make bread: Fill a small saucepan with enough water to cover the potatoes. Cover pan and bring water to a full boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook potatoes until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Remove potatoes with slotted spoon, and place in bowl of mixer. Reserve 1 cup of potato water and let cool to room temperature. Mash the potatoes in the mixer bowl, and stir in potato water.

Fit mixer with dough hook. To bowl of potatoes and potato water, add flour, dill weed, salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and bread starter. Stir on 1st or 2nd mixer setting until dough forms into soft ball, riding around on dough hook, and no dough remains on sides of bowl.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and sprinkle top of ball with more flour. Knead dough by hand, adding more flour as dough gets sticky. Continue to knead until dough is smooth and elastic.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a medium-sized bowl, and rotate bowl to coat bottom and sides with oil. Drop dough ball into bowl, then turn dough to coat all sides with oil. Cover bowl with a clean, damp cotton kitchen towel and let rise in sink filled with 2-3 inches of hot water for 1 hour, or until dough is doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Drizzle baking sheet or 3 pie tins with additional olive oil, then use paper towel to spread oil evenly across pan(s). Sprinkle baking sheet or pie tins with a light dusting of corn meal (which acts as ball bearings for your bread as it rises and bakes on pan). Punch dough down, and turn onto lightly floured board. Cut into 3 equal pieces. Sprinkle pieces with flour. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, bring outsides of dough into center and punch down, and continue doing that until nice ball of dough has been formed. Place 3 balls of prepared dough onto baking sheet or 1 on each pie tin. Cover dough with dry kitchen towel, and let rise in warm, draft-free place for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until dough is almost doubled in size.

Once dough has risen sufficiently, slice across top of each loaf 3 times with a sharp, serrated knife, going about 1/4″ or 1/2″ into top of dough. Place dough in preheated oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top and sides of bread is golden brown. Bread should sound hollow when tapped when it’s done. Remove to wire rack to cool immediately out of oven. Cool bread for at least 30 minutes before cutting into a loaf. Cool bread for 2-3 hours before placing in Ziplock bag to store. Do not refrigerate.

*NOTE: Original recipe called for using bread flour, but I’ve never found much difference in taste or texture when I’ve used bread flour over all-purpose flour to make bread.

Greens, Grapes, and Tuna Lunch Salad

IMG_1615OK co-worker Tom, it’s time to stop drooling over my lunch, and make your OWN salad! The base of this recipe is a fresh take on canned tuna, and was from the Whole30 cookbook. But I’ve embellished it to make a salad that I really love for lunch. It all started when we had inadvertently stock-piled on canned white Albacore tuna, and there were cans and cans of it crowding the cupboards. (Anyone else do that? Think, “Oh, I think we need THAT,” as you spot it at the grocery store, when in fact you’re positively swimming in that item already?) This recipe has been a great way to use up the plethora of tuna. You can just as easily use canned chicken—so grab whatever floats your boat! I like to make 4 of these salads at a time, and then refrigerate the ones I’m not taking for lunch. They keep quite well, and it’s a great time-saver for the morning rush.

Makes 4 salads

Whole30 mayonnaise:
1¼ cups olive oil (not extra virgin), divided
1 egg
½ teaspoon dried mustard
½ teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon

In food processor or blender, combine ¼ cup olive oil, egg, dried mustard, and salt. Blend until combined. Very, very slowly, drizzle in the remaining 1 cup of olive oil with motor running, and process until oil is emulsified (thickened to mayo consistency). Add juice of lemon and pulse until combined. Refrigerate for up to one week, but no longer.

For tuna (or chicken) salad:
15 ounces (or 3 – 5.1 ounce cans) of white Albacore tuna or all white meat canned chicken, drained and flaked
½ cup Whole30 mayonnaise or Hellman’s real mayonnaise
Quarter of yellow onion, minced
1 tablespoon dill weed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients in bowl, breaking apart meat with fork. Set aside until rest of salad is assembled.

For base of salad, layer on 4 plates or in 4 plastic containers:
1 head romaine lettuce, leaves rinsed and dried, then jullienned
2 fistfuls of spinach leaves, julienned
3 scallions, sliced thin
2-3 stalks celery, sliced
3 slices of jicama (½-inch thick), cut into ½-inch cubes (optional) *
2 cups green grapes, sliced in half

Top greens and grapes with prepared tuna (or chicken) salad. Serve on plates, or cover container and refrigerate.

IMG_1614*NOTE: Jicama is also called a Mexican potato, and it is a deliciously crunchy addition to any salad. You peel off the tough outer skin with a paring knife, and then slice into sticks or cubes. Sticks can be dipped in dressing along with carrots and cukes. Cubes can top just about any salad. The high water content and slight sweetness make it a very refreshing veggie to nibble.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

FullSizeRenderNeed a vegetable side dish for the holidays that doesn’t involve green beens and a can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup? As previously promised, here’s another option for your holiday feast. If you can peel carrots and chop ’em with a knife, you can make this super simple recipe. I’ve posted roasted veggie dishes before, but it never hurts to be reminded how good vegetables can be when roasted in the oven! Roasting brings out the natural sugars (mmmmmm…sugar…) in the vegetables, and makes them oh so delicious. I like to chop these into skinny sticks, and you can almost convince yourself you’re eating fries due to the shape. Almost. Parsnips mix nicely with the carrots as they are less sweet, and they also make the dish visually more interesting. Just make sure your sticks are similar in size so they cook evenly. This is a little tricky with the poor pear-shaped parsnip. (If parsnips were your girlfriend, she’d be that one constantly complaining about her hips.)

heritage carrotsdownloadTo really make your roasted carrots comment-worthy, try using the heritage carrots found at Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores in the fall (also at farmer’s markets, if the one in your neighborhood is still open). Look for the bag of carrots in a variety of orange hues, sometimes cream, and purple. Yes, I said purple! It looks like Harold and his Purple Crayon helped with dinner. But the combination of colors brings a little fun into your simple veggie side dish.

Serves 4-6

Rating: easy

8-10 carrots, peeled and cut into 4 or 5-inch sticks
5-6 parsnips, peeled and cut into 3 or 4-inch sticks
1-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dill weed
½-1 teaspoon garlic salt

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Toss carrot and parsnip sticks in a bowl with olive oil, dill weed, and garlic salt until vegetables are coated with oil. (I actually just sprinkle rather than measure, so I’m guessing at the amount of herb and seasoning here.) Spread onto a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until tips are slightly caramelized, and vegetables are tender. Serve.

NOTE: The beauty of this dish is that you can cook it at just about any temperature, so if your oven is set at 325° or 400° for the main dish, that works too. If using a 325° oven, they will need about 35-45 minutes. If using a 400° oven, they will be done in about 20 minutes. Another trick? I save old cookie sheets just for roasting vegetables, as the oil and sugars from the veggies darken (aka: ruins) the pans and make them no longer fit for baked goods.

Savory Tomato Bisque Soup

FullSizeRenderGrilled cheese and tomato soup lovers will welcome this tomato bisque recipe—it’s leaps and bounds above a can of Campbell’s. I got this flavorful recipe from a restaurant in Stillwater, Minnesota called “Savories,” a delightful little place that has since closed. The soup recipe was requested by a reader of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and it was my job to get it for her. The owners were happy to share the recipe, as it was a wildly popular item, but said in a very world-weary voice, “Please tell your readers to try one of our other 200 soups that rotate on the menu now and then…” I’m glad they were in a sharing mood, because every time I’ve served this soup, it’s been a smash hit with the soup slurpers at our table. I guess it’s become MY most requested recipe, too!

Lately, I’ve been making it with half and half instead of the suggested heavy cream—but you decide how much fat you want in your soup. (Using a stick and a half of butter right off the bat, I think the fat-for-flavor category is covered…) I’ve also added in tomato paste to give it more tomatoey goodness. So what’s the perfect partner for this creamy soup? We like to make grilled cheese panini sandwiches with a stiff sourdough or rye bread, pile on deli ham or turkey, some spinach leaves, and add sharp Cheddar and Colby cheeses to the other fixings. To borrow Campbell’s slogan, Mmmmm, mmmmm, good.

Makes 12-15 servings*

Ease rating: medium (compared to opening a can of Campbell’s cream of tomato)

1½ cup chopped yellow onion
¾ cup butter
2 teaspoons dill seed
2-3 teaspoons dill weed
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 cup flour
6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock, if you want to go vegetarian)
4 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes in juice
1 can tomato paste**
½ cup honey
2-3 cups half & half (or 2 cups heavy cream)

Sauté onions in butter until they are translucent. Add dill seed, dill weed, oregano, parsley, and salt, and cook over low heat to toast herbs. Sprinkle flour over onion mixture and stir until all flour is absorbed. Then continue to cook the flour mixture for 1-2 more minutes. Add chicken (or vegetable) stock, whisking while adding in liquid to avoid lumps. Add canned tomatoes, juice and all, and tomato paste, stirring to combine. Bring soup to a boil to allow to thicken. Just before serving, stir in honey and cream.

*NOTE:  As this recipe makes a gallon of soup, you could make it, stopping short of adding in the honey and cream, and freeze half of the tomato soup mixture. Then add in ¼ cup honey, and 1 cup cream, and enjoy a smaller batch now, and another batch later!

**If you don’t want to add the tomato paste, skip it, but reduce the honey to 1/3 cup.